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Drug trafficking is the term used to describe the production, distribution and sale of illegal drugs. In the United States, such drugs include cocaine, heroin, PCP, LSD, methamphetamines and marijuana. Penalties for trafficking may vary, but in most places penalties are intended to be severe enough to discourage individuals from engaging in selling drugs.
Drug trafficking is a major source of crime worldwide. Not only is there physical danger inherent in the use of illegal drugs, but drug smuggling is also frequently accompanied by other crimes such as murder, kidnapping, prostitution and assault. Authorities work full time all over the world to prevent the use and sale of illegal drugs, as both represent enormous dangers to society.
While laws vary according to jurisdiction, individuals charged with drug possession usually face stiff penalties, which include property forfeiture, hefty fines and time in prison. In some countries, such as China, drug sales may be punishable by death. In certain jurisdictions, when people are caught smuggling or selling drugs, individuals will sometimes hire a drug lawyer who specializes in defending individuals accused of such crimes. Even with legal counsel, however, drug trafficking laws designed to deter people from producing and selling drugs are strictly applied.
In the United States, a special government agency exists for the sole purpose of monitoring and discouraging drug trafficking. The Drug Enforcement Administration, also known as the DEA, is a federal agency which exists to enforce American drug laws by thoroughly investigating people suspected of the production, distribution, smuggling and sale of illegal drugs. The DEA functions with the help and cooperation of private citizens and lawmakers, as well as other local, state and international law enforcement agencies.
A few of the other American agencies that specifically work to reduce instances of drug trafficking include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as well as various immigration, customs and border patrol agencies, which work to stop illegal substances from crossing national borders. The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) also regularly coordinates with each of these agencies, and similar agencies in other countries, to discourage illegal drug sales internationally.
Globally, drug trafficking is a multibillion dollar industry. As a profitable industry, illegal drug sales also fund the purchase of illegal weapons often used to fund organized crime and civil wars in developing countries. Even with stringent law enforcement efforts and penalties, authorities worldwide engage in a constant struggle to stop the illicit drug trade.