Skip Navigation Links

Drug Traffic — A Worldwide Scourge!

How do drugs and hard narcotics get into the United States?
Where do they come from?
Who is affected? How big is the international drug traffic?
Here are the astonishing answers — a behind-the-scenes look at dope smuggling!


HE POINTED his grandfather's shotgun at his heart and pulled the trigger — ending a life which had been made "hell" by drugs. But before Percy Patrick Pilon, Jr., 18, committed suicide he wrote an open letter to fellow teenagers in which he said:

I have used all types of drugs from hash, pot and acid to hard stuff. It's all a bad scene. The people who push it don't use it because they know it's bad stuff. They can see what it does to you. All you are doing is ruining your life and letting people make money through you. . . .

Where are you going to go from pot — hash — acid — heroin?


Drug Use Growing

What are the chances your child will be hooked on dope, his or her life ruined by heroin? Do you think this is only a problem of the ghettoes of the big city? If so, then you have been grossly mistaken.

The problem of drug traffic is worsening. Drug abuse has spread from the big city ghettoes into the affluent suburbs. Heroin traffic is being described as commonplace in many schools.

In Lynbrook, New York, parents heard estimates that perhaps 50 percent of the city's teenagers were using marijuana or hard narcotics. Because of increasing drug usage, Donald H. Louria, president of the New York State Council on Drug Addiction, warned that "within a couple of years every high school and every college in the country will be inundated by heroin."

Unless the trend is reversed, your community will be affected — if it isn't already.

Drug use has become part of modern life. Though laws still make certain drugs illegal, illicit drugs can be found almost everywhere. People are looking for thrills, kicks, excitement and escape, and drugs are providing it.

What can be done about this growing plague of illicit drugs? Where does dope come from? How can the drug traffic be stopped?


The Opium Octopus

The major hard narcotic smuggled in world trade is opium, from the opium poppy plant — the source of morphine and heroin. The story of opium is almost as old as the story of mankind.

In ancient Sumerian clay tablets is described the process of extraction of opium from the poppy plant. The Sumerians of lower Mesopotamia called it Gil, which meant "rejoicing."

The knowledge of opium was spread abroad by the ancient Babylonians to Persia and Egypt. Arab traders introduced the drug into China probably in the ninth or tenth century.

Originally, the drug was drunk or eaten. Opium smoking is of comparatively recent origin.

Wrote Norman Taylor in his book Narcotics: Nature's Dangerous Gifts, "It is difficult to exaggerate the tragedy that opium has brought to humanity. No other drug has caused so much corruption, or unseated so many of the powerful; the tentacles of its trade have stretched from the august board rooms of the Fast India Company in London to the slums of San Francisco, the Emperors of China, the respected merchants of New York and Boston, and to those great centers of modern drug traffic in Cairo, Bangkok, and Singapore" (page 38).

Officials estimate about 200 tons of opium are diverted annually from cultivation in Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey. Another 1000 tons of opium are illegally produced in Southeast Asia, including Red China.

"This quantity of raw material," stated a United Nations report, "could yield approximately 120 tons of morphine or even somewhat more of heroin. Assuming that an addict daily consumes no more than three therapeutic doses of morphine or heroin, the opium could annually supply more than ten million morphine addicts or more than twenty million heroin users . . ."

Opium addiction, or addiction to any of its derivatives such as morphine or heroin, is obviously a problem of worldwide dimensions. It is not just a United States problem. Increasingly, it is a British problem, a Canadian problem, a French problem, a Scandinavian problem, a Dutch problem, a German problem, an Australian problem, a South African problem.

A few official estimates show the enormity and scope of the scourge: Tehran, Iran, 40,000 addicts; Puerto Rico, 10,000; Hong Kong, 80,000; India, 340,000; the United States, 200,000. All these are estimates. No one can estimate the size of the problem in Egypt, the Middle East, Vietnam and China because these countries try to play down their role in the opium black market. But these and many other nations are directly or indirectly involved.


Tentacles of the Underworld

Each year an estimated 400-600 tons of opium are smuggled out of Southeast Asia, the bulk of it from Burma and Laos. On its way to the Americas, much of this opium passes through Thailand where 15-50 tons are added to the supply. Until recently, experts believed that the United States got only about five percent of its heroin from Southeast Asia, but some officials now think they underestimated the amount.

Opium is converted into morphine in crude laboratories in northern Thailand and the morphine is converted into pure heroin in or around Bangkok. Smugglers purchase heroin in Bangkok at $2,250 a kilo. Once it reaches the United States, its price jumps to over $10,000 a kilo. By the time it is "cut," it sells for about a quarter million dollars!

The focal point of narcotics smuggling through the Far East is Hong Kong, which has one of the highest narcotic addiction rates in the world.

About four fifths of the illicit opium and heroin smuggled into the United States originates in Turkey. The opium is grown in wild, remote areas by Turkish farmers who receive about $10-$15 a pound. The opium is smuggled into Syria and Lebanon where it is chemically transformed into a morphine base, reducing its bulk by 90 percent. The chemist receives $5 per kilo (about 2.2 pounds) for the morphine base. From there it may be smuggled by ship to Corsica, or to Marseilles in southern France, where secret laboratories process the morphine base into pure powdery heroin. Here the chemist may receive $700 per kilo of heroin he produces.

Conversion of the morphine base into pure heroin usually is done at or around Marseilles. It is a dangerous, sophisticated process that requires a knowledge of chemistry and a modern, well-equipped laboratory. A slip-up can cause a severe explosion. It is estimated that at least six — perhaps twice that number — secret heroin factories are in operation around Marseilles, operated by ruthless Corsican gangsters.


The Smuggling Operation!

Narcotics have been smuggled in hollowed-out books, scuba tanks, disguised as fruit, in canned fruit, false-bottomed suitcases, concealed compartments in trucks or automobiles, or in the mail labeled as innocent gifts. Women hide them in girdles, brassieres. "Pregnant" women hide them in false stomachs.

From European ports, the heroin is smuggled by ship or airplane into the United States or Canada — to a port city, or a major airport such as Toronto, Philadelphia, New York, or any number of others.

Since there are 350 ports of entry in the United States and 220 million travelers pass through them each year, heroin smugglers stand a good chance of carrying off their operation undetected. Customs agents estimate that they seize only about one tenth of the contraband shipped into the United States.

The Turkish farmer might receive about $35 per kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of opium. The courier who brings the refined heroin into the United States may be an unknowing exchange student who is given $200 to bring a car into the country. American smugglers, mainly members of the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, may pay $10,000 for a kilo. The wholesaler gets the same (or a diluted) kilo for about $18,000, and he will probably charge the distributor $32,000 for a "kilo" (by now, heavily diluted, cut with lactose, quinine, etc.).

By the time the heroin reaches the addict or "junkie," the original kilo will make about 54,000 packets of heroin at $5 a bag, each bag containing five grains of 5% heroin!

The original kilo of opium, on the street, might fetch $225,000. Some estimates say half a million dollars!

A single Harlem distributor of heroin raked in unbelievable profits until Federal Narcotics agents cracked down on him. He had a net income — total profits — of $29,000 every single week, or over a million dollars a year, until he got careless.

Clearly, there's a lot of money in the narcotics traffic!

Who is involved in narcotics traffic? In some countries, the most respectable circles — the highest ranking government officials, leading politicians, foreign diplomats, cabinet officials in some Asian lands. In Laos the Army is said to be involved and the Air Force of that country allegedly transports opium. Corruption among high officials is commonplace. The temptation for "easy money" is too great.


The Mob

The international narcotics traffic —especially heroin — is dominated by the Mafia. The Mafia is an organization variously called "Cosa Nostra," or "the syndicate." It is an international alliance of at least 24 tightly knit families or groups. Each family is linked to the others by mutual understandings, agreements and treaties (Cressey, Theft of the Nation, pp. x-xi).

Members of "the mob" don't actually sell heroin or hard narcotics to dope addicts on the street. Rather, they are the importers and wholesalers. Their wholesale profits are conservatively estimated at $90 million a year. They sell to the "dealers" who are the middle-men; the "dealers" sell to the addicts or "junkies." Such dealers are indispensable to the Mafia and could be considered part of the organization in a broad sense, but rarely are bona fide members.

In the narcotics racket, each dealer is an independent businessman. He purchases at wholesale prices from Mafiosi and sells at retail prices. His is the greatest risk.

The "big shots" in the drug smuggling business are the importers of multi-kilo lots. Under them are the "kilo men" who handle nothing less than a kilo of heroin at a time. These men purchase from the importers and receive delivery from couriers. The kilo man then dilutes the heroin by adding three kilos of milk sugar for each kilo of heroin. Then the product is sold to "quarter-kilo men" and then to "ounce men" and then to "deck men," with more adulteration taking place at each stage. Eventually, street dealers dispense the heroin in five-grain packets called "bags" or "packs" or "balloons." The final cost to the addict is an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 times the price paid to the Turkish farmer for the original kilo!

To purchase the estimated three tons of heroin smuggled into the United States each year, addicts — or "Junkies" — must pay over $2 billion. To get the money for heroin, most of them steal from two to five times that amount in property.

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of the robberies and street crimes committed in the big cities of the United States are drug-related. Each year drug addicts must steal from $4 to $10 billion in stolen goods just to keep the heroin flowing into their veins!