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Why is the drug trade is so profitable for illicit drug dealers?

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There are several different reasons why the drug trade is so profitable. For one thing, drugs are generally becoming cheaper to procure for dealers at their source. Colombia has seen a resurgence in the number of hectares devoted to growing coca leaf, used to make cocaine, since 2013. Although they earn more than they would from other crops, coca farmers are paid at relatively low rates by the cartels.

Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid which causes thousands of overdose deaths in America, is sourced from China and Mexico, countries which produce it cheaply. The drug is also highly potent: two milligrams are considered a lethal dose. Fentanyl's strength makes it easier to handle and increases profit margins. Its potency has made it more popular than heroin among users, despite it being more expensive.

The production of methamphetamine has moved from small local labs to Mexico after the US cracked down on access to the ephedrine it is made from. The streamlining of the production and distribution of the drug has reduced its cost.

Dealers also seek out areas where prices are higher and where there is less competition. This can result in drugs flowing across the continental US. For example, cutthroat competition in California has caused cocaine dealers to turn to more lucrative markets along the Eastern Seaboard.

Selling online has also increased the amount and variety of drugs dealers can sell. This phenomenon first took hold in 2010 and has expanded to social media platforms and messaging services. Attempts to shut down drug markets on the so-called "dark web" have been fruitless.

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