Crime Nexus

The Relationship between Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime

Criminal networks in the world traffic varying drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and cannabis. The criminal networks are enhanced by the accessibility of drugs, global drug abuse, and porous borders. Puyana et al. (2017) explain that international drug trade, which comprises of dealers, suppliers, couriers, producers, and growers, facilitates criminal networks. The issue of drug trafficking is widespread and affects the majority of countries in the world where it undermines the economic and political stability, damages communities, and ruins the lives of residents. However, Shanty (2011) notes that the addicts and the end users are mostly the victims of manipulative and powerful business. 

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Criminals continue to develop more advanced and creative ways to disguise illegal drugs transportation, which is challenging for law enforcers to detect concealed substances. Puyana et al. (2017) explain that there is a direct link between drug trafficking and other forms of crime such as corruption, money laundering, and terrorism. This illustrates the need for national security to understand the correction between drug trafficking and organized crimes. However, drug traffickers continue to produce new synthetic drugs with regularity. These aspects illustrate the need to explore the correlation between drug trafficking and organized crimes. 

Manwaring (1994) argues that there is a connection between drug trafficking and terrorism. However, Shanty (2011) argues that this link is mostly with the local militant groups rather than the international terrorist organizations. Although terrorism and drug trafficking are correlated, Cornell (2012) argues drug trafficking is not the main determinant of terrorist activity. He adds that drug trafficking facilitates terrorist activities in wide-ranging and complex ways but it does not certainly radically increase the deadliness of attacks.

According to a study conducted in Central Asia on the impact of Afghan opioid trade and its relation to terrorism-related violence, it was identified that terrorists are actively involved in the drug trade to fund their criminal acts. However, the study also identified that terrorist groups like al-Qaida, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Taliban source their revenue from illicit activities like looting of cultural artifacts and diamonds, oil smuggling, money laundering, and human activities. Manwaring (1994) argues that drug trafficking sources revenue to insurgency and terrorist acts across the globe. In other cases, some terrorists use drugs as a currency to commission their actions as was conducted in Madrid bombings. 

Drug trafficking can indirectly affect terrorism. Cornell (2012) explains that local armed groups engage in criminal activities and resorts to violence as avoidance of losing power and control over lootable resources. This is majorly expedited by state collusion in the drug trade. Shanty (2011) suggests that the drug trade shapes broader economic and social environments where it affects the predisposition of individuals to violence against their state. 

Shanty (2011) explains that in attempts to reduce the demand for drugs, there is normally a fundamental competition for counternarcotics assistance among the customs agencies, border troops, and interior ministries. For example, persons who were previously drug addicts become involved in violence. Cornell (2012) explains that some areas like transit regions (Central Asia) drug trade require tackling issues like strengthening democratic functions and weakening corruption. Shanty (2011) explains that there is no overlapping between drugs and drug-related violence. Puyana et al. (2017) explain that drug trafficking is correlated to the commissioning of violent crimes. Some of the reasons of this relationship include drug traffickers are likely to be violent, rip-offs and disputes among drug traffickers, competition for customers and drug market, and locations where there is a proliferation of drug trafficking. 

Another reason that increases violence among drug traffickers is the proliferation of lethal weapons. University of Massachusetts Lowell (2019) explains that patterns of violence among drug dealers are classified into three major factors: if the government security forces are fragmented or cohesive; whether the individuals commit crimes or outsource the violence to street gangs; and if drug cartels are fighting for turf or are monopolies in the market. According to their study, the University of Massachusetts Lowell (2019) explains that the frequency of violence increases while traffickers outsource to street gangs or are fighting for tuff. Another aspect discovered from the study is that drug traffickers with effective and cohesive security apparatus as well as those protected by corrupt state actors have a high likelihood to hide or minimize their violence to prevent a crackdown or a public outcry. In contrast, drug traffickers from fragmented security forces are likely to maintain control by visible violence like shootouts, bombings, and public assassinations.

In conclusion, there is a correlation between drug trafficking and other crime like terrorism, violence assassinations, and human trafficking. These organized crimes are influenced by three factors: the fragmentation end cohesiveness of security forces, when traffickers are monopolies, or when they fight for tuff or outsource from street gangs. These acts pose challenges to national security. For example, drug traffickers from fragmented regions are likely to engage in shootouts, bombings, public outcry, and public assassinations. Drug trafficking has a direct and indirect association with terrorism where either the drugs are used as a currency in terrorist activities or the drug traffickers directly finance the terrorist activities. 


Cornell, S. E. (2012). The interaction of drug smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism. In Human trafficking and human security (pp. 60-78). Routledge.

Manwaring, M. (1994). National security implications of drug trafficking for the USA and Columbia. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 5(3), pp.379-408.

Puyana, J., Puyana, J., Rubiano, A., Montenegro, J., Estebanez, G., Sanchez, A. and Vega-Rivera, F. (2017). Drugs, Violence, and Trauma in Mexico and the USA. Medical Principles and Practice, 26(4), pp.309-315.

Shanty, F. (2011). The Nexus: international terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan. ABC-CLIO.University of Massachusetts Lowell (2019). Researcher studies impact of drug-trafficking violence. PHYS.ORG. [online] Available at [Accessed 1 Jun. 2019].

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