What is Drug Trafficking?
Drug trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a ‘global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Drug trafficking can involve the manufacturing of drugs of any type, the illegal sales of such drugs or medication, and the transport of illegal substances or amounts, among others. In Australia and New Zealand, commonly called Oceania, women are often used in drug trafficking. There are a number of reasons for this that will be described below.
Specific to Oceania, the use of women traffickers has shown to hold steady or grow each year up to 2016. The rates of women traffickers is much higher in this area than in other countries, including the Americas which also have high rates.
Female Drug Use
Female drug use differs a great deal from that of men. Though non-medical use of tranquilizers and opioids is common for other genders, men are far more likely to use cannabis and opiates. Women also tend to start using later in life than men, though once they start the rate of use increases at a faster rate overall. Furthermore, women end to use drugs with an intimate partner while men tend to use with other male friends.
Internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety, which may lead to drug use, are more common to women. Furthermore, women who have substance use disorders have a higher rate of PTSD and have experienced childhood adversity than men. These same women are likely to have caregiver responsibilities which means their families will suffer from the addiction as well. So, why are women more likely to traffic, especially in Oceania?
The truth is the answers are not totally clear. However, some studies suggest that women become involved to sustain their own drug habits. Other studies that women who fall into trafficking were likely trafficked in the human trade themselves. Women’s participation in the drug trade is often seen as a form of vulnerability and oppression in which they are forced to act out of fear. In addition, women are more likely to work for a lower amount of pay than men, so they are cheaper to use as ‘mules’. Basically, there is a multiplicity of factors behind the participation of women in the drug trade. It is thought to be shaped by socioeconomic vulnerability, intimate relationships, violence, and economic considerations. A woman may be motivated to try to care for her family or other obligations to take part in the drug trade, but no two may have the same reasons.
Challenges for Women Arrested in the Drug Trade
Women who are arrested for drug trafficking offenses often receive higher sentences than men. In some countries, drug related offenses account for either the first or second cause of incarceration among women. It is believed by targeting low level offenses, women are disproportionately incarcerated. Women tend to suffer more than men when it comes to long term consequences from incarceration. In many instances, women have less access to healthcare than male counterparts when it comes to drug treatment and sexual or reproductive needs. Fewer women also receive preparation to their return to society. Women faced the combined stigma of gender and ex-offender status upon return which leads to social isolation. This further affects the ability to change their previous lifestyle choices.
Dealing with Someone with Addiction
If a loved one is involved in drugs in any way, including trafficking, there are some basic principles you must remember. These will be explained below, but include:
- Not being naive
- Not being an enabler
- Rejecting lies and manipulation
- Following the money
- Protecting your valuables
- Considering substance abuse
- Keeping Responsibility where it belongs
- Stopping drug use in the teenage years
- Choosing an appropriate rehab
- Not believing everything you hear from rehab
- Provide support
- Realize there are triggers to relapse
- Don’t lose hope
Steps to Follow
The first step is to never be naive about drug use and abuse. Addiction can affect anyone, at any age, and at any time. If you are suspect that a person is using then do not enable it in any way. Providing money, offering rides, or covering up for the person is not helpful in any way. If that person makes you feel guilty or unloving, remember that it is just a form of manipulation. One way to know that drug use or an addiction is present is by following the money.
Addiction requires money and often addicts cannot keep a steady job. If there is too much money suddenly coming in or finances are dire with personal items being sold off, then drugs are likely involved. Along with this, protect your own valuables as addicts are prone to moral decay and ethical questionability, so theft is not off the table. If you do find that substance abuse is present, remember that you are not responsible. If your teen is experimenting, stop the problem before it gets any further. This can be accomplished by choosing an appropriate rehab that will be most functional for your loved one.
When your loved one calls from rehab, do not believe everything you are told because the addict may try to make things sound better than they are to get out earlier. As they stay in rehab and upon release, stay supportive, but do not enable bad habits. Even after completing rehab, there are triggers and relapse is a concern. If a relapse does occur, do not lose hope. Keep trying, even if it means tough love.
Finding the Right Rehab
Whether you are using drugs, concerned about a loved one, or have gotten involved in drug trafficking, there is help available. DARA in-patient rehab has numerous locations, four of which are in the Oceania area (Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland). DARA helps to heal the mind, body, and spirit through physical wellness, nutrition, individual and group counseling, as well as education. Though no rehab can guarantee 100% success rate, DARA is one of the best.
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