What’s wrong with the drugs trade?

Drugs give you a great high but they might not be so fun for the rest of that world, or your body for that matter. Aside from the personal havoc that drugs can bring, we’re talking about everything from health problems to addiction, they also cause serious damage to the environment and the people making them. Sorry to be a buzz-kill, but it's important to be informed. Read on to find out what's wrong with the drugs trade.

A young, blonde woman is standing in the middle of the pavement. She is looking up the drugs trade on her phone. This is a full-body image.

Is the drugs trade problematic? 

If you’re concerned about the well-being of the world, odds are you’re an ethical person. But hang on… what’s that in your hand? A cigarette? Oh. And you smoke weed as well? 

Sorry, you can’t have your ethical ice cream and eat it too. You’ve probably heard about how drugs harm you, but what about how drugs harm others? Or the planet we live on? The hard truth is that the drugs trade is responsible for some of the most fucked-up human rights atrocities. 

Cocaine, human rights, and environmental disasters 

Coke is the second most popular drug in this country, but making it and getting it here is a bloody mare. According to author and journalist Anthony Barnett, for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, an innocent civilian in Colombia has paid for it with their life. That’s because in recent decades a large proportion of the UK’s cocaine supply has originated in Colombia, where civil war rages and competing gangs use coke profits to fund their fighting. In recent years, Mexico has also had its share of bloody drug wars, while Peru and Bolivia are upping their production.

A 2003 United Nations report, studying the link between drug trafficking and human rights in Colombia, associated cocaine trafficking with the massacre of innocent civilians, selective killings, kidnappings and torture. Not only does coke fund all these brutalities, but it also generates violence in areas where the coca plant is grown. Land mines and home-made explosives are often planted in areas where local people pass, and anyone unfortunate enough to accidentally get muddled up in the fighting is usually murdered.

Sniffing at the truth of the drugs trade

Jonathan Glennie, who has managed Christian Aid’s aid programme in Colombia, says: “A lot of young people buy fair trade coffee and are aware their lifestyle choices impact others. But when it comes to snorting a quick line of coke they would rather turn a blind eye to the horrible violence and conflict the drug causes.”

It’s not just human rights that are sniffed at by drug users. Coke is heavily linked with deforestation and contamination of the surrounding habitat. In fact, the United Nations University says that 1g of cocaine requires the destruction of 4sqm of forest, creates an estimated 625g of waste, and 200ml of contaminated water.

Cannabis, the drugs trade, and the environment 

We know what you’re thinking – But it’s a plant! How can it be bad for the environment? Plants are good things. They gobble up carbon dioxide, photosynthesise, and besides, weed grows naturally as a… err… weed.

 All that may be true, but it still doesn’t mean passing the dutchie is good for Mother Earth. The illegal growth and cultivation of marijuana is responsible for destroying thousands of acres of forest in the US. Closer to home, UK cannabis factories have a carbon footprint bigger than a clown’s shoe. This is because people often bypass electricity supplies in order to heat eighty 600W lamps, which make the weed grow quicker. Hello global warming. 

Cannabis dealers aren’t exactly fussed about humans and their rights, either. UK factories are usually dangerously flammable, putting neighbouring properties (usually full of unsuspecting innocent residents) at risk. They’re often booby-trapped, endangering firefighters sent to extinguish them if they do go up. The money made from growing and selling cannabis is then used for seriously dodgy stuff, like money laundering and drug trafficking.

Heroin and the Taliban 

There are countless reasons why heroin is best avoided, but here are two: It’s addictive as hell, and it funds the Taliban. Opium poppies are a traditional crop in Afghanistan and the heroin derived from them accounts for 92% of the world’s supply. So your opium party is actually funding a group of people who are known for pulling women out of school before they’re eight and publicly executing them if they break strict Taliban rules.

Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and the ozone layer 

Funnily enough, the environmental impact of hippy crack isn’t a laughing matter. Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is the worst human contributor to punching a hole in the ozone layer. Since a ban of CFCs in the nineties, that nice blanket of ozone that protects our fair planet from the sun has been on the mend. But nitrous oxide is undoing that good work. Laughing gas is legal, so you’re not breaking any laws by taking it. But it’s ozone-thinning properties have led some music festivals to ban it.

Tobacco, child labour, and the environment 

Ever found yourself lamenting the wrongs of the world while brandishing a cigarette? Well, you might just suck up the word ‘hypocrite’ next time you inhale. The tobacco industry has shifted most of its production to developing countries to save money. The real cost? Over 78,000 children in Malawi are working relentlessly for 12 hours a day. They bring home as little as 11p for their efforts. 

Children as young as five are ingesting tobacco through their skin as they work. On an average day, the nicotine that dissolves into their skin is the equivalent of 50 cigarettes. Tobacco production is also responsible for gigantic amounts of deforestation. As a matter of fact, 600 million trees are cut down every year to make tobacco products. The devastation to the environment is twofold. Firstly, people clear huge areas of forest to grow the plant. Then, they cut down more trees and burn them to dry out the plant; The result? Roughly nine million acres of forest are lost each year.

Next Steps

  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
  • Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


drug dealing

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 26-Aug-2021