CORVALLIS, Ore. Drug traffickers who want to leave the "game" behind often struggle to do so because they fear loss of power and status, a new study shows.
Those who do leave the illegal drug trade often do so because of a complex mixture of issues including fatherhood, drug use and abuse, and threat of punishment by authorities or fear of retaliation. Researchers concluded that traffickers need ways that allow them to leave the drug business without surrendering their entire identity.
The new article, now online in the International Journal of Drug Policy, is one of the first ethnographic studies to interview former drug traffickers in detail.
Tobin Hansen of Oregon State University and lead author Howard Campbell with the University of Texas-El Paso conducted detailed life history interviews with 30 former drug traffickers from the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
They wanted to find out why traffickers quit selling drugs, and also discover more about their perspectives on the lifestyle and reasons why they entered the drug trade.
Hansen, who teaches Spanish at OSU, said very few studies of this kind exist. He said the former traffickers interviewed were primarily young white and Mexican-American males.
"Our primary goal in this study was to look at motivating factors why traffickers may, or may not, choose to get out of the drug game," Hansen said. "We found they often want to quit, for safety reasons, for family and just as a part of life course as they get older, but that it is very difficult to relinquish the power and status they get from the business."
Many of the study participants talked about feeling powerless, or being poor as kids, and how joining a gang or starting to sell drugs helped change this.
"In this area, it is also a rite of passage to become part of the drug business," Hansen said. "Most of the people we
|Contact: Tobin Hansen|
Oregon State University