The Most Powerful "Big Three" Illicit Drugs

by earnlat

This article describes the most pervasive, popular, profitable, and abused illicit drugs on the international black market. What can the global society do to eliminate drug gangs?

The Global Drug Cataclysm

Here in the United States, and in countries worldwide, the illicit drug trade continues to wreak havoc. Drug addiction the disease, becomes lost within the street violence, and unintentional deaths due to overdose.

The daily by-products of the drug trade are being replicated in nations near and far. Law enforcement continues to make record seizures and arrest, yet cities across the international community are saturated with illicit dangerous drugs.

Drug addiction in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America are at record numbers. The constantly evolving, sophisticated cartels and drug gangs utilize enormous profits to employ state-of-the-art concealment technologies along with formidable human talent. This illegal industry generates roughly $500,000,000,000 globally each year.

Recently an online illegal drug marketplace called "Silk Road" was busted, and the long arm of the global drug trade is still feeling the ramifications. The international drug disaster must be addressed in a concerted effort, by all governments and their citizens. Substance abuse and drug addiction cross every socio-economic, racial, educational, cultural, and ethnic boundary that exist.

The thumbnail map above, represents the global illicit drug trade, effecting every corner of the earth. Africa is presently the trafficking and distribution center of the world, for this illegal industry.

The illicit drug trade will not just disappear on its own. We, the human society must be pro-active in our effort to put an end to the industry's daily and harmful side effects. Here in America, we are the number one "consumer" country worldwide. The evolving political and economic trends, being realized in nations like China and Russia, may allow those nations to consume more substances, challenging the United States, for top consumption status.

The Most Abused Substances Worldwide
The Most Abused Substances Worldwide
© claudio -

Substance Abuse And Drug Addiction.

Are They The Same Thing?

I think we would all agree that the most commonly abused substances globally are tobacco and alcohol. Both are legal in almost all countries even though the two have proven to be harmful to the abusers, and sometimes those around them.

We may also concede that most people use alcohol responsibly, drinking on weekends, during vacations, or just one drink during a social event. Its customary to share cigars after the birth of a child, and that may be the only time some folks smoke.

Clearly the examples above don't represent either of the two, addiction nor abuse.

The cigarette smoker that uses a pack or two a day, or the cigar aficionado that always has a Cuban "Cohiba" in their mouth, paints a different picture. We all know someone that's constantly drinking some kind of alcoholic beverage, yet never appears to be drunk.

On the other hand someone that only has one or two drinks before turning into the proverbial "dr. jekyll and mr. or mz. hyde". My point simply stated, is that these labels are unique to each individual person, and their own motivation, tolerance, and behaviors.

(My own personal reference point...)
I knew a friend of my parents for my entire life, this person was a criminal attorney, a pillar within the community. They had at least eight graduate degrees along with their law credentials, and a robust criminal law practice. For well over thirty years, this incredible person was a husband/wife, mother/father, friend, professional, with a secret. Late in years they confided that they were alcoholic, that hadn't missed a day of drinking in nearly thirty years. They explained how they concealed the truth, and functioned daily.

I share this unusual and genuine anecdote to illuminate the many faces of abuse and/or addiction, I'm not sure which of the two categories [substance abuser or drug addict] they would be labeled, or even if it has any real importance. Do you know?

I realize that this person is an anomaly, but I'm sure there are others. I've heard the phrase "functioning alcoholic", used to describe this remarkable person. I found that phrase to be inadequate and unclear. I'd argue that a functioning alcoholic is someone that is able to support their addiction. This person was an overachiever, and more complete in most facets of life than most people.

The "drunk" living on the streets, begging for change to purchase a bottle of wine, is nothing more or less than a homeless person that drinks. The high powered successful professional that drinks each day before or after work is certainly a substance abuser, and may also be a drug addict. Right?

The professionals continue to identify patterns of behavior, genetic predispositions, and all other factors to determine how most effectively to treat patients. The single most important dynamic we should all remember, is that each addict and abuser is an individual, with their own motivations, strengths and weaknesses.

Medicinal Marijuana and Recreational Cannabis
Medicinal Marijuana and Recreational Cannabis
© jeremynathan -

Medicinal Marijuana and Recreational Cannabis.

Weed Legalization Hits The World Stage.

It doesn't matter which side of this discussion you are on, medical marijuana along with recreational cannabis are here to stay. In the United States as well as nations around the world, options regarding the legalization, or decriminalization of weed are being addressed.

Colorado has become the first state in the USA, to sell legalized marijuana. Washington State also has passed a similar law, and continue to work on the logistics, before the roll-out later this year. Presently, twenty states and the District of Columbia, enjoy medicinal marijuana legislation, and twenty additional states are negotiating terms for their jurisdictions.

As a Florida resident, with a large geriatric population, countless infirmities, I'd hope that the sunshine state will, at the very least pass a medicinal law. I'm also an advocate for legalization of pot, for sound reasons.

In 1986, I lost my youngest brother, shot to death by some street dealers, making territorial markings. They sprayed a crowd of some sixty teens and young adults, queuing for a Halloween party. My kid brother, an amateur DJ, was in front of the venue removing equipment from his car. Suddenly, a car pulls up, three men exit and begin randomly shooting the partygoers.

The detectives, investigating the murder, informed my family that competing neighborhood dealers, were making a statement. I personally believe that their intent was to do harm, but not to kill anyone.

Seven people including my baby-brother, were all hit below the waistline. In my mind, criminals looking to definitively slaughter people, would have aimed at the upper portion of the body. At twenty years old, six foot five inches tall, with a lean and muscular frame, a bullet from a street dealer crashed into his groin, caused internal bleeding, making Dominic [my brother] the only fatality.

Ever since that incredibly painful event, I've been keenly aware of the unyielding violence, globally, that the illicit drug trade imparts on the international community. As long as we [global community] continue to allow the most prolific criminal enterprise, know to modern man, be owned and operated by vicious, unforgiving, undereducated thugs, our schools, neighborhoods, communities, nations, will live in fear of the ever growing influential drug gangs.

Colorado, Washington State, the nation of Uruguay, have all recently served this illicit industry its first truly significant blow. Collectively, the international community can minimize their [drug gangs] profitability, dismantle their organizations, eliminate the influence, and zap their power. High tech weapons are expensive, so is ammunition, take away the drug gangs means, we will destroy the ruthless gangs.

Alcohol is the substance that has been most associated with hostility, and violent crimes. Yet this has been the internationally accepted "drug of choice", and continues to enjoy tremendous social status. I've recently read an article, observing a shift in preferred substances most abused in Colorado. The alcohol industry may begin to lose the market share, they have enjoyed for many decades.

Alcohol poisoning has taken many lives, as young people test their limits ingesting more than their bodies can tolerate. Marijuana has to date never killed anyone, is never associated with violent behavior, its also one of the most abused and profitable illicit drugs worldwide.

It is a plant, that can be grown indoors and outside, requires no specific processing. The research presently being conducted in Israel, reveals incredible applications in terms of serious brain injuries, including Alzheimer.

The human condition, has shown an affinity for a "state of euphoria", since biblical times. The Bible  references a specific miracle by "Jesus", that drives my point:

"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him". (John 2: 1-11)

Water was not an appropriate beverage for this "social " event, therefore it was turned into wine for the benefit of the people in attendance. I can't believe that I'm distorting my interpretation of this passage.

Cannabis Going Forward

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Medical Marijuana: The Story of Dennis Peron, The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and the ensu...

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Coca Leaves Going To Market
Coca Leaves Going To Market
© chicagophoto -

Coca The Cocaine Producing Plant.

Inca People's "Gift From The Gods"

Illicit drugs have played a role in modern society for well over one-hundred years. This is a relatively short period of time because many "controlled substances" had legal status before reclassification. There are many illicit substances being bought, sold, abused, and the list continues to grow. But let's look at some history and the major players that still dominant the illicit drug cataclysm.

Coca Leaves
The first reported use of the coca leaf for stimulating purposes dates way back to the 1500s and the Inca Empire. These indigenous people [Incan] of Peru, had been chewing coca leaves for thousands of years, and believed the leaves to be sacred. The coca crop was cultivated and sold in leaf form along with other innocuous spices.

This plant strives in the lower altitude of the Andes Mountains in South America. Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and parts of Argentina, cultivate the coca crops. When Spanish explorers recognized the leaves as something of great wealth, they exploited the people while taxing the sale of the leaves.

The first time that cocaine was isolated from the leaves and the euphoric properties were realized was in 1855, by a German chemist named Friedrich Gaedcke. Within a few short years of this discovery, the drug was processed and used as a local anesthetic. It became very popular.

It is common knowledge that the initial productions of Coca-Cola contained small amounts of the drug, as caffeine may be used today in many popular drinks. In an effort to drive home how much the drug was used, Sears & Roebuck advertised in their catalogs, cocaine packs for toothaches and other remedies. These packets sold for .15 cents a piece.

Today cocaine is one of the most sought after and expensive street drugs on the black market.
Derivatives of the coca plant are being used globally, the poorer the country and its citizenry, the lower grade, more dangerous modifications are being monetized.

Cocaine was often referred to as the "rich man's" drug. One gram [28 grams = ounce] could fetch up to $100.00 dollars in clubs and bars around the US. In its purer state this drug would never be sold on the streets, as it could never be afforded by that demographic. Millionaire athletes, entertainers, professionals, business owners, and other well-heeled, remain the client base of high-grade cocaine distributors.

Crack-cocaine was introduced into the American society back in the early 1980s. According to the late Gary Webb an investigative reporter with the San Jose Mercury News, crack was presented to black and brown Americans, unable to purchase the high-grade product.

Brazil's infamous favelas [ghettos] are saturated in crack, the three dollar high. Paco or cocaine paste is derived from the poisonous processing of cocaine, yet still has not landed on the shores of the USA.. Its cheap waste, made up of such chemicals as kerosene, devastates the inner-city youth of Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile.

Corruption has become synonymous with all nations dealing with serious addiction issues and the illicit drug trade. It is generally blatant in some of the fore-mentioned South American countries, but more covert and complicated within the larger more powerful economies.

Opium Produces The Deadliest of All Street Drugs

Opium Plants In Afghanistan
Opium Plants In Afghanistan
© Foto Factory -

Heroin King Of The Street Drugs

Deadliest Street Drug Globally


There are many drugs on the black market having a detrimental effect on our global society. The list grows constantly as "chemist" continue to create designer drugs that can be sold as "legal highs". They are dangerous, will eventually become illegal, and attempt to mimic the euphoria of illicit drugs. Cocaine and opium and sometimes cannabis in the synthetic derivative form, remain the most abused, addictive, expensive and deadly.

Perhaps the most deadly and widely used of the three major street drugs is derived from the opium plant. Heroin is an opiate that continues to take the souls and/or lives of countless people around the world. However opium has had a long relationship in both the east and the west, and like oil, has created great wealth for some nations, while destroying others.

The history of the drug dates way back to the "New Stone Age", or about 10,000 BC. In China recreational use was found as far back as the mid 1500s. Like cocaine, this drug was marketed and sold by various prominent retailers here in the USA.

During the 19th century it was primarily used by middle-class white women, to ease the pain of the menstruation cycle. Morphine an active chemical in the opium plant, was first isolated in 1804 and has been used for pain relief since then.

The Opium Wars that many of us learned about in high schools across the country, were extremely complicated and harmful to the Chinese. Under the auspices of the British Empire, an India-based company traded opium in China, for many years, contrary to Chinese law. The addictive nature of the drug enslaved countless numbers of Chinese and would become the basis for the wars.

The addictive Os, opium and oil, have been attracted to war zones for centuries. Their ability to create great wealth for countries controlling the distribution, will ensure that they remain powerful. Opium has funded serious military conflicts and wars, and remains the funding mechanism for terrorist organizations to date.

The information about opium dates back many years, and would take a lifetime to sought out and understand. Heroin on the other hand is playing out right in front of our faces. Musicians, actors, entertainers, high-school students, people, are dying everyday to overdoses, or due to violence associated with this "king of the street drugs".

The globalization of our earth has given the human society many wonderful gifts. It is time that the global community acting in concert, prepare to take real world action, against our collective enemy, the gangs controlling this illicit industry.

Knowledge Is Our Key To Change.

Excellent Reading From The Experts
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Cocaine (Watts Library)

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Also known as blow, rock, snow, and crack, cocaine is a drug made from the leaves of the coca plant. This book explores the history of coc...

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Opium: A History

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Violent Crime, A Daily By-Product of This Trade

International Economics of Illicit Drugs
Violent Crime and the Drug Trade
Violent Crime and the Drug Trade
© robtek -

The word "prohibition", will take us back to a time, when we learned all about street violence related to the illicit alcohol industry. In 1920 and for the next thirteen years, it was illegal in the United States to sell or purchase alcoholic beverages. However, the demand for the drug was greater then law-enforcements ability to eradicate supply.

Many crime organizations were formed during these early years, and violence was a daily by-product of the times. Fast, reliable profits motivated the criminal element and violent destructive confrontations with law-enforcement and competitors became the norm.  Now let's fast-forward to 2014, the plethora of illicit drugs and crime organizations has grown by leaps and bounds.

In the USA, inner-city medium to high-level dealers earn salaries commensurate with well-paid professionals in their communities. Ten-thousand dollars a month will continue to lure otherwise law-biding citizens, into this complex and dangerous industry that does not require a college degree.

The high functioning dealer will go on to create an organization, employing several teens and young adults, to control larger territories. These youngsters will earn about $1250 monthly, putting them into the low end of the middle-class, yet living better than they ever had. Exceptions to this are the gang members, working for large domestic gang organizations, earning just above minimum wage for about twenty hours a week, street dealing.

Maintaining these positions with rivals on every corner, demands aggressive security tactics. Nearly all of these kids are armed and dangerous, leaving innocent victims vulnerable and frightened. With the exception of the farmer in some third-world nation, earning pennies for his labor, this profile [gang members] represents the bottom level of the illicit drug industry.

They earn the least amount of profits, produce the most violence, and live shorter lives. Some would ask, why should we care? The addicts they supply are human beings, stealing from businesses, burglarizing homes, and every form of domestic crime you can imagine. Their next victim could be anyone, you or I, someone we love.

Apathy is the culprit that has allowed this industry to flourish.


United Nations' World Health Organization reports;
Violence within illicit drug markets:

The lack of formal social and economic controls in illicit drug markets facilitates the
spread of violence. Without legal means for resolving business conflicts within drug
markets, there is a tendency for violence to emerge as the dominant mechanism of
conflict resolution (25-29). Furthermore, gangs and individuals involved in the drug
dealing often carry guns for self defence from other groups or individuals who pose
a threat to drug operations (30,31).
%u2022 In Pittsburgh, USA, almost 80% of 19 year olds who sold hard drugs such as
cocaine were found to also carry a gun (32).
%u2022 In England and Wales approximately one third of all arrestees reported owning
or holding a gun at some time in their lives; a key reason for doing so was for
protection or self defence in buying or selling drugs (16)".

It is important to mention, as with all vibrant industries, some individuals will rise to the pinnacle of the business. These street dealers will earn millions of dollars, dependent on how long they remain alive and out of prison. In New York city names like Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, or more recently, drug kingpin Alberto "Alpo" Martinez ran huge organizations that generated tremendous profits. In Washington, DC the name Rayful Edmonds, who reportedly earned over $300 million a year, continued his lucrative enterprise even after being sent to prison. They all have the propensity to murder rivals, and order "hits" when they felt the need, and the body count is staggering.

Nowadays the constant huge profits generated by the illicit drug trade, are made by Mexican cartels, and other globally organized crime syndicates, and terrorist groups. The smugglers or traffickers can make upwards of $500 million for a single delivery of 100 tons of cocaine, or heroin.

These are the organizations capable of high-level bribery, and enticing banking institutions, to compromise their business ethics, and break the laws. Profits like this, will also create serious competition from every direction. Even within the same gang, when millions are at stake, trust is non-existent. We have seen these drug wars play out along the US/Mexican borders for years. Often innocent victims at that wrong place, pay the ultimate price for illicit drugs, to get bought and sold around the world.


Ethan Nadelmann, Phd.

An incredible advocate of immediate and proactive change.

The "war on drugs", began back in 1971 during the Nixon Administration. For over forty years tax payers have paid the bill for interdiction, international eradication, global law-enforcement, high incarceration rates and a crowded prison system.

Should we totally abolish the "war on drugs"?
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Supporting links, additional data, and The Truth.

These links will take you to other articles, post and reports. This is one of the most successful illegal industries on earth, yet we [Global Community] hate discussing the problem in real world terms.

Welcome to the Global Drug Report This link takes you to the welcome page of the website, it chronicles the global drug fiasco.

Corruption, a daily by-product of this illicit industry. This article examines the 2008 economic downward spiral and the corruption that enabled the illicit drug trade worldwide.

Violence in America fueled by the drug trade. Violence in nations around the globe are directly tied to the illicit drug trade. Here in America that holds true!

The "Silk Road" Exchange. This online drug marketplace is evolving as the technology of the internet advances the industry. Recently "silk road" was busted by law enforcement, but copycats are already filling the orders.

Illicit Drug Cataclysm This page gives a history of how and why the Global Drug Report came to exist. Watching the daily by-products of the illicit drug trade became too frustrating, not to act.

Global Drug Debate This page will give you a brief explanation as to how I came to my position regarding the illicit drug debate.

The Opium Wars The website illuminates the perspective of the BBC regarding the great Opium Wars. "When Britain Made War On China"

Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News The late Gary Webb, an award winning investigative reporter, has written articles and books about the US governments role in the illicit drug trade. Must Read!!

The United Nations' World Health Organization Violence Report The World Health Organization continues to study the daily by-products of the illicit drug trade. Violence remains the most common worldwide.

Peru, Inca Empire and Coca Plants The Incan people thought of the coca plant as a sacred "gift from the gods".

Kingpin Rayful Edmonds Street drug kingpin Rayful Edmonds, from Washington, DC may be most noted for his ability to run a formidable drug organization from within the prison system.

The Mayor of Harlem, Alpo Martinez Alpo Martinez aka the Mayor of Harlem was raised in NY and made millions in the illicit drug trade.

Heroin Kingpin Leroy"Nicky" Barnes Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, was portrayed in the movie American Gangster. He is known for his heroin-dealing organization, and later becoming a government witness against his contemporaries.

Syrian Rebels and The Opium Trade. Rebels in places like Syria and Afghanistan, fund their war efforts with the proceeds from the opium trade.




Producer and Consumer Nations.

Strong Symbiotic Relationships.
International Drug Cataclysm
International Drug Cataclysm
© Foto Factory -

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I'd like to make it perfectly clear, the symbiotic relationship that exists between the "producer and consumer "countries, drives the illicit drug market. That's just pure fact! All successful industries have one important common thread, supply and demand must be met.

If one of the two components is not cooperative, the other could not exist! With regard to the relationship between supplier [producer] and customer [consumer] the connection is strong. Substance abuse among a variety of demographics, on an international scale, is at an all time high (pun intended).

Global By-Products of the Drug Trade

Violence remains the most volatile of the daily by-products being experienced around the world. Drug deals "gone bad", territorial disputes between competing organizations, addiction sickness, all of these creating dynamics that often result in serious bodily injury and death. Terrorist groups rely on cash crops like opium to fund their geo-political agenda.

Governmental/Financial Institution corruption looms large globally. Within some of the third world nations, the ability to cultivate powerful stimulants like coca may be the only way to subsidize an already struggling economy. Huge multi-national banking institutions, are predisposed to launder these dirty funds, redirecting those monies into the global economy.

Clearly not all governments nor financial institutions are corrupt, but it only takes some compromise to allow this industry to become the 800lb. gorilla in the world.

Intentional/Unintentional deaths of Hollywood stars, the brightest entertainers, inner-city children, street kids in ghettos across the globe, another DAILY by-product of this trade. Suicides of the addicted, feeling as though death is their only salvation. Overdoses taking the lives of so many good people way before their time.

Incarcerations at record numbers in the United States, seemingly to keep rich jailers in business. Addiction and substance abuse should be a medical issue not a criminal sentence. Within certain minority communities, a disproportionate number of people with drug-related offenses, are doing serious prison terms.

Treatment/Education are the most important components globally, for the global community to defeat this deadly, unforgiving, "to big too fail", illicit drug industry. The "war on drugs", have taught governments worldwide, actions speaking louder than laws. People in prisons are capable of maintaining drug habits, while serving time. These institutions have been compromised for years, why not address these facts in a transparent, honorable, and proactive manner?

I remain optimistic, that our global society will continue to evolve, and squash the international illicit drug gangs, going forward.

Updated: 03/17/2014, earnlat
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Gina on 04/03/2014

Nice job, important information for everyone.

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