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10 Things You Didn't Know About the Drug Trade

The world of illicit drug activity is, by nature, a secretive and self-protected one. But here are few things you didn't know about the drug trade that are, at least probably, true.


Things change, morph, improve and depreciate at a fast pace in the drug trade. But for all the changes and growth, the drug wars wage on. Sometimes, it's clear who's in the right and who's in the wrong. Sometimes, it's a bit more grey. But regardless of the right and wrong of things, the industry of drugs—drug trafficking, dealing, purchasing and using—is a topic that everyone knows at least a little about. However, there are certainly things you didn't know about the drug trade, that may be of interest to many people.

Illegal drugs, are, well, illegal. So the drug trade relies heavily on things like codes and even technology to connect dealers with buyers, and ensure the safety of everyone, to the greatest extent they can.

Not all dealers do drugs.


It's not surprising that there might be many things you didn't know about the drug trade, given the stereotypes we get from media. But the fact of the matter is, many drug dealers don't even use their own product, or any other for that matter. For some, it's a business, not some line of work they entered out of interest in, well, illicit drugs. So, you may be surprised to find that drug dealing isn't always done by users, and that image of the rough, uneducated, tatted-up druggie you might have is probably inaccurate. Some dealers may take a slightly softer line and partake of their own product, but only to test it. After all, it's good business to be sure you're selling quality products.

'Good business' doesn't mean pushing drugs on people.

Despite the impression we got from middle school anti-drug campaigns and those awful skits they made us act out, the best business model for drug dealers is not to try and convince uninterested parties to buy drugs from them, or in other words, push their product on random people. Instead, the best course of action for dealers is to find the places where people are already looking or amenable.

Because of media and anti-drug organizations, this attitude may be one of the things you didn't know about the drug trade. But the fact of the matter is, just like in marketing and advertising, target audience is everything. Business—any business—booms when they're able to connect with the people who are already, or would be, interested in the product.

It's a tech-savvy business.

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

A lot of people have an image of the drug trade as a lot of shady, dark-alley, black market deals. You know, shadowy figures and secret handshakes. But one thing people might not realize is that the multi-billion dollar drug business has made use of modern innovations just like everyone else. Modern technology like bluetooth devices allow dealers to conduct their business with lower risk, choosing not to meet their buyers in person until trust can be established.

In addition, many dealers now often take to social media to connect with potential buyers. There are a plethora of codes used on various social media platforms, from innocuous-looking capitalizations on Grindr and other hookup apps, to brazen hashtags on Instagram. 

...But Not Always NEW Tech

Photo by hayabuzo via Pixabay

Being tech-savvy and keeping up with the modern age is great, but there's also good reason for drug dealers to make use of outdated technology, like old Nokia phones. In the age of smartphones, pretty much all phones have some kind of connection to the internet, through wifi or data. But in the drug dealing industry, you don't want to conduct your business on your personal phone, or have a bunch of extra iPhones for that purpose. So it makes sense to stick with cheap, older phones for that part of their lives. That also allows dealers to keep their personal and professional lives more separate, which is important in any business.

Anti-drug PSAs actually boost the drug business.

A lot of things you didn't know about the drug trade are, at least in part, the fault of well-meaning but ultimately failed anti-drug campaigns, which were particularly prevalent in the 90s. These anti-drug PSAs were not only ineffective in preventing kids from using drugs, but actually increased the use of illicit drugs. Since many of these campaigns hinged around "peer pressure," and involved exercises on how to say no against certain pressures and arguments: for example, "all the cool kids are doing it," or "everyone smokes weed, it's no big deal!" While it's good to practice saying no, these messages had the added, unintended effect of making kids believe that all their friends and peers were doing illicit drugs, normalizing it more than condemning it.

Dealers are often better sources of drug education than anti-drug organizations.


Another issue with the anti-drug campaigns of the 90s and early 2000s was that they lumped everything together: say no to marijuana, say no to alcohol, say no to cocaine, say no to meth. And while these are all things young kids should generally not be doing, some of them are much more dangerous than others. As a result, some dealers feel obligated to educate their buyers and make sure they understand what they're doing. Especially among teenagers who aren't drug users already, it's common for people to place all drugs in the same category. Then, when they try marijuana or even just alcohol, they think, "Hey, this category of things isn't so bad." But the moderate dangers of alcohol and marijuana on the developing brain is nothing compared to the dangers of addiction, interruption of brain development, and major health risks of harder drugs like cocaine, meth, or drugs you didn't even know existed.

Marijuana has a decreasing role in the illicit drug market.

Photo by Michael Fischer from Pexels

With states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, there's no real illegal drug trade for marijuana, except perhaps for underage kids. But that's a surprisingly small demographic, and many dealers refuse to sell to minors, for good reason. But one possible thing you didn't know about the drug trade is just how much the decriminalization and destigmatization of marijuana is affecting the world. That's why more people than ever are laughing at the funniest hits blunt memes

Meanwhile, prison inmates that were sentenced on marijuana-related drug charges now have the possibility, and already the reality in some cases, of being freed. In addition, fewer minor drug charges are landing people in prison, taking some much-needed strain off of the prison system, and hopefully allowing our justice system to work a little more effectively, rather than draining funds and ruining lives for minor infractions.

Buyer demographics might surprise you.

Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

There are a lot of stereotypes about drug dealing and drug trafficking, and of course, about the buyers and users themselves. But you might be surprised to learn that the majority of people who buy illicit drugs are neither urban hooligans, nor the uber-rich, laws-can't-touch-me 1%. In fact, dealers prefer not to service urban areas in general, finding that the most lucrative business is found in middle-class suburbs. This is because, contrary to media portrayals, the demographic that makes up the majority of the drug trade (on the buying side) are suburban, middle-class professionals. There are, of course, plenty of people who fall down the road of addiction and destroy their lives, but there are also a surprising number of hard-working, middle-class citizens who have, shall we say, an ongoing relationship with their dealer.

It's a lucrative business.

Photo via Pixabay

There are dealers who got into or use the business basically as a means to support their own drug habit. There are others who do it just to pay the bills, or as a part-time gig for a little extra spending money. But the truth of the matter is, smart drug dealers who know what they're doing can really make bank in the business. So the media stereotypes of practically-homeless, permanently drug-addled dealers represents a pretty small minority. That type is more likely to get caught, and so may well be over-represented in statistics, but a significant proportion of drug dealers can support themselves, even their families, through the drug business. And for the more daring, there are other aspects of the drug trade to make money in: drug trafficking, for example, is lucrative enough of a business that you can afford the most expensive dog collars you can buy your pooch, though it's a business fraught with danger from the law and clients alike.

Success in dealing and success in legal endeavors follow the same patterns.

While many drug dealers make a lucrative business out of their trade, this isn't to say that it's inherently a monetarily good business to be in. In fact, success in the drug trade is much like success in any other field—those who rise above the competition tend to be more intelligent, skilled individuals who would also be more likely to succeed in legal endeavors. The drug market, in this way, is something like the stock market—anyone can do it, but success is going to come to those with the wits, determination, and knowledge to earn it. In fact, many of the most successful individuals in the drug trafficking and dealing world also have successful legitimate jobs.