There is no denying the global phenomenon that is drug trafficking. Illicit cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of these substances amounts to over $500 billion annually.
In the past decade, there has been a marked increase in global drug use and experts blame this on rising polydrug use: more people are using two or more substances at the same time or sequentially. As more people consume more drugs, you’ll find that there is no shortage of variety.
Every day, there seems to be a new drug created. One of them is “flakka”; said to be similar to cocaine, this drug reportedly makes the user experience “excited delirium”. A more notable effect is that they feel stronger and faster than they actually are.
Drugs like this are known as synthetics and have become a source of worry for law enforcement and health authorities. For one, there is no “ideal” dosage, which can mean the difference between getting “high” and overdosing.
Synthetic drugs like this have become more common due to the global crackdown on other drugs. Thanks to some dark parts of the Internet, trafficking of these drugs can be done without detection.
While some argue that alcohol and nicotine should be classified as illegal, this list is about the countries that produce the 10 most common illegal drugs.
10. Synthetic Cannabis
In response to the global crackdown on drug manufacture, 2014 saw a rise in the use of “spice”, a synthetic cannabis-like drug. This drug is sold in legal retail outlets as herbal incense. Users claim it produces a sensation similar to traditional marijuana.
Though labeled “not for human consumption”, users tend to assume the drug is safe as they are so readily available. But in reality, they tend to be unpredictable because potency levels vary, and they can also be laced with other substances. Tests by regulatory bodies have found that they only contain multiple analogs of the cannabis chemical. As an analog, it is hard to detect on a regular drug test.
Being a chemical analog, spice can be up to 1,000 times stronger than cannabis. This has led to adverse effects from taking as little as one hit. Placed under control by the DEA in 2010, the chemicals used to make spice are produced in China then shipped to Europe for packaging and sell as “legal high” products.
As prescription pills, they’re used to treat insomnia, agitation, seizures, muscle spasms and alcohol withdrawal. The potency of this class of drugs opens them up to abuse.
Benzos are one of the drugs commonly taken by poly-drug abusers. Taken in high doses, its effects are described as similar to alcohol, which is one of the substances it is often combined with. They can be taken orally as tablets or misused intravenously or even intranasally.
As this is a broad class of drugs, the laws controlling them differ. For example, in Britain, it’s the law to store Temazepam safely i.e. in securely fixed double-locked steel safety cabinets. But a similar benzodiazepine, Midazolam, doesn’t have such stringent laws governing storage.
Only available via prescription in the UK and USA, these drugs are banned everywhere else. This demand fuels the underground market, leading to the growth of illegal “jellie” labs in Russia and across Eastern Europe.
Ketamine was originally synthesized to be a replacement for PCP by American pharmacist Calvin Stevens. By 1965, it was discovered to be a powerful anesthetic and was used in minor procedures and in stopping post-operative pain.
Its dissociative properties and quick mode of action led to its use as a recreational drug. Kicking-in in under 10 minutes and with the effects lasting for up to 60 minutes, it quickly became a drug of choice. Since its components don’t require any particularly sophisticated equipment, ketamine and its “legal” analogue, methoxetamine, are easily available.
Though illegal in countries including the USA, UK, India and Canada, it is still widely available on the Internet. Research from the EMCDDA found major ketamine production in the European Union and South China.
Also known as Diviner’s Sage, Salvia divinorum has been used by the Mazatec Indians for centuries. In more recent times, it has been classed as one of the many New Psychoactive Substances that can pose a public health threat.
Described as being able to “overwhelm the senses and send people into complete visionary states”, salvia is ingested by smoking or chewing the leaf. Commonly observed effects include extreme paranoia, usually within seconds, an extreme fear reaction and loss of motor skills.
Salvia is illegal in several countries; in the USA, its legality varies from state to state. On the Internet, it can be purchased as dried leaves or extract-enhanced leaves of various strengths. Salvia divinorum is grown in Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico and parts of South America.
6. LSD (Acid)
As one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals known, little wonder it was the second most sold drug on the Darknet in 2014. The rush of emotions, altered thinking processes, crossing over of sensations where users start to hear colors and see sounds are some of the reasons this drug has been used since the 1940s.
Adverse side effects include temporary confusion, impaired memory and panic attacks. Yet this has remained a popular drug among creative types: LSD has been credited for inspiring hit songs, and even scientific discoveries. Even in Silicon Valley, LSD is used by many as a way to “get in touch with creativity.”
Manufacturing LSD requires time, complex lab equipment and an experienced chemist. Production is highest in illegal laboratories in the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and the Midwest of the United States.
E, MDMA, Molly, Mandy: all are names for the world’s favorite party drug. The drug of choice for many ravers, esctasy’s effects include a state of overwhelming emotion, enhanced empathy and increased sociability.
In response to a period where the quality of the drug available was considered poor, manufacturers started to produce it in powder and tablet form. These forms were the most trafficked drugs on the Darknet in 2014.
A massive clampdown by governments on the sale of ecstasy precursors has driven manufacturers underground. But as it is responsible for $16.07 billion in sales across the globe, the market still thrives. The largest seizures of ecstasy occur in East and South-East Asia followed by South-Eastern and Western Europe. These regions account for three quarters of the global seizures of the drug.
The United Nations branded this the “most abused drug on Earth”, and there is a steady increase in the amount of users across the world with each passing year. In 2006, the head of the DEA claimed that the users of the drug outnumber the total users of cocaine and heroin worldwide.
Meth works by triggering an overwhelming release of ALL the hormones that cause euphoria and excitement. It can also last up to 40 times longer than cocaine. Users become obsessed, almost manically, with small tasks. Some become obsessed with taking things apart; users have tried to take themselves apart by pulling teeth and peeling skin.
Methamphetamine seizures have almost quadrupled in the past five years. While meth is produced in many countries across the world, over two thirds of the global methamphetamine seizures occur in North America.
A semi-synthetic product derived from certain poppy species e.g. Papaver somniferum, heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous opiate. Originally created to help cure people of morphine addiction, it has become known as “the world’s most destructive drug”.
Highly addictive, it can be ingested by intravenous injection, smoking, snorting, even anal or vaginal insertion. Its effects often lead to users committing crimes just to get a fix. Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium poppy cultivator, with the total area under opium poppy cultivation estimated to be 224,000 hectares. This represented an increase of about 30,000 hectares from 2014.
With over 17 million users across the world, the global cocaine market is valued at around $110 billion. These figures make it is easy to see why gangs will do anything to control their supply. Brutal murders from Mexico to Venezuela show that cocaine is one of the most fought-over drugs in existence.
The coca plant is largely confined to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. For decades, Colombia was the world’s largest exporter, but with the Colombian government destroying 34,486 hectares used for cultivation, the country has fallen behind as the largest producer. Peru, on the other hand, planted 60,400 hectares of coca, making it the current largest producer.
Cannabis is the most common gateway drug; it’s also considered the most popular poly-drug, after alcohol and benzos. At least a third of the U.S population has used cannabis at some stage of their life. Cultivation is illegal in many countries, though recent laws in America are changing that stance.
With 164 million users worldwide, it’s value is pegged at around $300 billion. The cultivation of cannabis is widespread, but Jamaica is still recognized as the largest illicit producer and exporter of the cannabis herb. There is also a thriving market for cannabis products like cannabis resin, kief, infusions and hash oil. Morocco in North Africa is said to produce around half of the world’s hashish.