A newborn baby shrieks in a hospital in Madrid, Spain. A nurse frantically tries to pacify him but to no avail. The baby is suffering the agony of heroin withdrawal. Worse still, he is HIV positive. His mother was hooked on heroin.
A Los Angeles mother inadvertently drives her car onto a street controlled by a gang of drug dealer. She is greeted by a barrage of bullets, which kill her infant daughter.
Thousands of kilometers away, in Afghanistan, a peasant cultivates a field of poppies. It has been a good year; production is up 25 percent. Opium poppies pay well, and the peasant’s family is struggling to survive. But these pretty poppies will be converted into heroin, and heroin destroys lives.
A shy teenage girl in Sydney, Australia, goes to a discotheque every Saturday night. She used to find it hard to mix with the crowd, but recently a pill called ECSTASY has given her new confidence. The pills she takes were smuggled into Australia from the Netherlands, although local laboratories are also beginning to supply them. Ecstasy makes the music sound better, and she loses her inhibitions. She even feels more attractive.
For Manuel, a tough peasant who ekes out a living from his small farm in the Andes, life got a little easier when he began to cultivate coca. Manuel would like to stop harvesting the crop, but he fears that this would enrage the ruthless men who control coca production in his area.
These are just a few of the human faces behind the drug scourge that is wracking our planet. Whether these people are consumers, producers, or innocent bystanders, drugs are relentlessly taking over their lives.
In these articles, I refer to drugs that are used for nonmedical purpose and that are distributed illegally. A drug with a slightly altered chemical structure often produced to evade restrictions on illegal narcotics or hallucinogens.
HOW BIG IS THE DRUG PROBLEM?
UN Secretary-General observes: “Drugs are tearing apart our societies, spawning crime, spreading diseases such as AIDS, and killing our youth and our future.” He adds: “Today there are an estimated 190 million drug users around the world. No country is immune. And alone, no country can hope to stem the drug trade within its borders. The globalization of the drug trade requires an international response.”
To make matters worse, in recent years designer drugs have entered the scene. These synthetic chemicals are designed to give the consumer a high or a euphoric feeling. Since designer drugs can be manufactured cheaply almost anywhere, police force are practically powerless to control them.
In 1997 the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs warned that in many countries these synthetic drugs have become part of “mainstream consumer culture” and that they must be viewed as a “formidable threat to international society in the next century.”
The newer drugs are no less potent than their predecessors. Crack cocaine is even more attractive than cocaine. New strains of cannabis have greater hallucinogenic effects, and a new designer drug called ice may be among the most destructive of all.
The dried flowering tops of the cannabis plant are the source of marijuana. The resin from the same plant is hashish. Both products are smoked by drug users.
DRUG MONEY AND DRUG POWER
Although drug users may be in the minority, their numbers are sufficient to grant immense power to the drug barons, the men who organize the production and distribution of drugs. These unscrupulous individuals run a racket that has become the most lucrative –and practically the biggest –business on earth. Drug deals may now account for about 8 percent of all international trade, or approximately $400,000,000,000 annually.
As drug money moves around the world, it enriches gangsters, corrupts police forces, grease palms of politicians, and even finances terrorism. Can anything be done to curb the drug problem? To what extent does the drug trade affect your pocketbook, your security, and the lives of your children?
DRUGS AND CRIME
DRUGS ARE LINKED TO CRIME IN AT LEAST FOUR WAYS:
1. Unauthorized drug possession and drug trafficking are criminal offenses in many country of the world. In the United States alone, police arrest about a million people every year on drug charges. In some countries the criminal justice system is drowning in a wave of drug offenses that the police and the courts just cannot handle.
2. Since drugs are very expensive, addicts frequently resort to crime to pay for their habit. A cocaine addict may need as much as $1,000 a week to pay for his addiction! Not surprisingly, burglaries, muggings, and prostitution mushroom when drugs take root in a community.
3. Other crimes are committed to facilitate drug trafficking, one of the most lucrative businesses on earth. “The illicit drug economy and organized crime are more or less interdependent,” explains the World Drug Report. In order to keep drugs flowing smoothly from one area to another, the traffickers try to corrupt or intimidate officials. Some even operate their own private armies. The huge profits made by drug barons also create problems. Their enormous cash inflow could easily incriminate them if the money were not laundered, so banks and lawyers are employed to cover the tracks of the drug money.
4. The effect of the drug itself may lead to criminal activity. Family members may be abused by chronic drug users. In some African countries plagued by civil war, horrendous crimes have been perpetrated by teenage soldiers high on drugs
THE BUSINESS OF KIDNAPPING/DRUG
“Kidnapping is … a booming business in places like Mexico, Colombia, Hong Kong, and Russia,” states U.S News &World Report. “Around the world, the number of abduction for ransom broke records in each of the past three years.” By far, the largest number takes place in Latin America, where there were 7,000 abductions between 1995 and 1998. This is followed by Asia and the Far East , Europe , Africa , the Middle East , and North America 
While most of those abducted are local merchants and landowners, anyone –aid workers, business travelers, or tourists –can be at risk. International companies now buy kidnap and ransom insurance policies to cover the ransom as well as costs for professional negotiators and psychological counselors. The kidnappers are organized, doing market research and risk assessment on potential victims.
They usually treat their captives well, realizing that this will result in fewer attempts to escape and will give them a better chance of payoff. “Only 1 in 10 kidnappings worldwide ends in the death of the person abducted,” says the magazine, but it gives this caution: “Beware of local police. They are often in cahoots with the kidnappers.”