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Drug Trafficking Around the World: Five Most Commonly Regulated (Or Illegal) Drugs

Drug trafficking is a global problem that can be found in almost every country in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking is defined as an illicit trade that involves the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of substances that are prohibited by drug laws.


Most governments regulate the manufacture, distribution, and use of certain drugs. These regulations might not necessarily make these substances illegal, but they do place certain conditions of their use and possession. For example, certain antibiotics and other necessary medications could require a doctor’s prescription.


There are, however, certain drugs or substances that are strictly prohibited by certain governments. Many psychoactive drugs, such as LSD and cocaine are strictly prohibited all over the world. However, others, such as marijuana are subject to different regulations from different governments which either allow their possession and use under certain circumstances or prohibit it outright.


Punishment for Drug Trafficking


Most governments around the world have penalties for drug trafficking and it’s usually considered a serious offense.


Drug smuggling, which is when someone or conspires to bring a drug that is prohibited in a country – either for sale or sometimes use, is a crime that carries some of the most severe penalties in the world.


Convictions for drug smuggling often include lengthy incarceration periods and fines. Some countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia still impose the death penalty and execute convicted drug smugglers.


Penalties for drug smuggling and other drug trafficking activities often depend on the type of drug and the quantity sold. Some countries also factor in where the drugs were sold and how they were distributed. For example, if the drug seller got into an altercation with law enforcement or was caught selling drugs to youths, this could carry harsher penalties.


Five most common substances classified as illegal drugs around the world


Different countries around the world have their own regulatory practices for the use of drugs. They also have their own penalties for drug trafficking and drug-related activities.


Which drugs are considered illegal or controlled substances may also vary from country to country. The following drugs are some of the most commonly classified as either illegal or controlled.


1. Cannabis


According to the latest report of the UNODC, around 200 million people used cannabis in 2019, with the highest number (14.5%) of users found in North America.


Cannabis is a psychoactive drug found in the Cannabis plant. It is commonly known as marijuana and is usually taken by smoking, vaping, or ingesting in the form of edibles. It can induce a sense of euphoria, which is why it is taken recreationally.


It is also used medicinally, as there is some evidence that it can improve appetite and treat chronic pain. It is also supposed to be able to reduce the nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.


Marijuana or cannabis-based products are usually subject to some sort of regulations either prohibiting or controlling their use. The regulations covering the use of cannabis can be very confusing.


For example, in the United States, the regulations on cannabis can change from state to state. Some states may prohibit the use of marijuana outright, while others allow for the use of medical marijuana. Even if you come from a state where medical marijuana is allowed, if you cross over to another state where it is not, you could get in trouble for bringing it in.


Most countries still consider the recreational use of cannabis as illegal, though many nations have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.


Proponents of the decriminalization of cannabis tout its medicinal properties as well as the fact that you can't overdose on cannabis. It is still believed, however, that cannabis use can cause anxiety, panic, and impaired judgment. It is also still an addictive substance and there are concerns that it could lead to habitual users turning to stronger drugs.


If you are a fan or user of marijuana, it is wise to seek a DUI attorney covering the substance before traveling to avoid being accidentally caught and punished for drug trafficking.



2. Heroin


This opioid is commonly used as a recreational drug. It is known to have euphoric effects and it does provide pain relief. But it is considered highly addictive, which means that its use – and sale and distribution – is illegal in most countries.


According to the UNODC, world heroin consumption and seizures come to about 430 to 450 tons a year. The World Health Organization considers the use of heroin and other opioids a global health problem. They estimate that, of the 269 million people who used drugs at least once in 2018, 58 million used an opioid.


There is a high incidence of death among heroin users due to opioid overdoses. An opioid overdose can cause users to have difficulties in breathing and suffer periods of unconsciousness which can lead to their death. WHO estimates around 115,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017.


3. Cocaine


According to the UNODC, about 20 million people used cocaine around the world in 2019.It is a stimulant that is derived from certain species of the coca plant.


Cocaine is snorted, heated then inhaled, or dissolved and injected into the vein. It induces a state of euphoria and detachment from reality. It also increases your heart rate, high doses resulting in high blood pressure and elevated body temperatures.


Cocaine is highly addictive. Every dose makes the user more tolerant of the drug's effects and dependent on the "high" it gives them. This results in many needing to take higher doses as time goes by and when they try to stop, drug withdrawal.


The global cocaine market is mostly focused on North America and the European region, they account for 80 % of the global cocaine market, which was estimated to have a value of $88 billion in 2008. Around 711 tons of cocaine were seized in drug trafficking operations in 2008.


4. Methamphetamine


Methamphetamine is a stimulant that is highly addictive. Methamphetamine users or addicts use this substance because of its ability to induce a state of euphoria and to increase alertness. It is also supposed to reduce appetite and can promote weight loss.


Among users, addicts, and traffickers, the common "street names" for this drug are meth, crank, and ice.


Because of how addictive it is, it is rarely used for medicinal purposes and is strictly prohibited in most countries around the world. 200 mg of methamphetamine is fatal for humans and methamphetamine use can result in abnormal heart rhythm and induce psychosis.


5. Opioids


Are a class of substances, of which heroin is one, that is medically used for pain relief. They are highly regulated because they can be extremely addictive and can lead to drug overdoses.

Opioid addiction and abuse are considered a global health problem, with more and more people abusing opioids.


According to the UNODC report, in 2019 around 62 million people worldwide used opioids for non-medical purposes. This means they either acquired their opioids illicitly or are taking more than what their doctors might have prescribed.


An opioid overdose can result in death from respiratory depression. Around 50,000 people in the United States alone died of opioid overdoes in 2019.



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