The Global Trafficking Flow of Opiates

Ever wonder how drugs like Heroin get into the United States?

Did you know that Heroin accounts for 90% of opiate abuse in the United States? It’s a growing problem. One the CDC (and many others) calls an epidemic. Opiates are a group of drugs which are used in the medical world for pain relief. It’s highly addictive, is often abused and over half a million people in the U.S. alone had a substance abuse problem with Heroin last year. How many people died as the result of Heroin overdoses in 2015? Over 10,000. It’s a growing problem and one that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

So how does it get into the U.S.? The biggest sources are Mexico and Columbia, as shown in the map below.


What drug cartels are responsible for most of the trafficking of drugs into the U.S.?

The drug cartels responsible for the flow of drugs into the United States include:

  • Sinaloa Cartel
  • Gulf Cartel
  • Juarez Cartel
  • Los Caballeros Templarios
  • La Familia Michoacana
  • Beltran-Leyva Organization
  • Jalisco Cartel Nueva Generacion
  • Los Zetas
  • Las Moicas

The map below provides some more information.

drug cartel flow of drugs into the U.S.

How are the drugs transported into the U.S.?

Mexican cartels transport the majority of their drugs over the Southwest Border through ports of entry (POEs) using regular vehicles like car, trucks, SUVS, etc. or tractor trailers. The drugs are usually hidden in compartments  or mixed in with other items that are normally transported into the U.S. For example, a recent seizure found fried fish where some of the fish had bags of narcotics inside the bellies of some of the fish. Once across the Southwest Border, the drugs are moved into stash houses in hub cities such as Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Then once again the drugs are moved from these hub cities into cities in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

The Growth of Heroin Overdose Deaths in the U.S.

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