The History of Drug Trafficking

Updated April 17, 2017

While drug trafficking (and use) has been around for centuries in one form or another, drug trafficking as it is recognised today became prominent starting in the 1960s. This article features a brief time line of drug trafficking from the 1960s to the present.


In response to high amounts of marijuana entering the United States through Mexico, the U.S. Customs Department begins Operation Intercept. For two weeks, every single vehicle at the U.S./Mexican border is searched. The first major drug interdiction operation does little to slow the flow of marijuana across the border.


Richard Nixon establishes the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).


Carlos Lehder and George Jung use small planes and a small Bahamanian island (Norman's Cay) to transport cocaine between Colombia and the U.S.


After the collapse of Lehder's Colombian operation, cocaine transportation routes shift to Mexico.


Pablo Escobar, leader of the most powerful drug cartel in the world (based in Medellin, Colombia) is killed by Colombian police with the help of U.S. Special Forces (see image).


President Bill Clinton's $1.3 contribution to Colombia's drug enforcement efforts sets the tone for the United States' next decade of drug interdiction efforts.

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About the Author

Nick Lewandowski began writing for various websites in 2009. His most recent full-time position was as editor for a financial services company in Cairo, Egypt. Lewandowski is a graduate of Denison University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and German.