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Drug Trafficking and Dealing

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What is drug trafficking & dealing?

The trafficking and sale of drugs is a major source of income for organised crime groups, who are often also involved in other serious crime such as firearms, modern slavery and immigration crime.  

Drug trafficking within the UK is commonly through the distribution of class A drugs, particularly heroin and crack cocaine, via ‘County Line’ drug networks operating across the country. Read more about County Lines, the links to Child Criminal Exploitation, and other vulnerabilities (such as the Cuckooing of homes).

Wales has seen an increase in cannabis farms in recent years (Wales Online). However, most illegal drugs originate overseas and are trafficked into the UK via various routes, including small boats and light aircraft, container shipping, vehicle traffic from Europe, airline passengers and parcels. In 2019, more than 250 kilograms of cocaine was seized and six people arrested, after an investigation led to the interception of a yacht off the coast of Wales.


Trafficking methods frequently rely on the recruitment of vulnerable people as mules, which carries high health risks if the drugs are carried within the body. Some people do not know that they are being used as mules, which is why it is important to pack your own bags. Traffickers also rely on enlisting the help of employees at ports and borders; this corruption weakens the integrity of border security and increases the risk of other forms of trafficking, including firearms and organised immigration crime. Read more via the NCA and in the National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2021.

Drug dealing at street level involves a mixture of junior members of organised crime groups, urban street gangs, and user dealers. Police forces primarily tackle street-level drug dealing, whereas the NCA leads on the Organised Crime Groups further up the supply chain. Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs describes the drugs market in more detail.

The most commonly used and sold drug is cannabis, followed by cocaine and ecstasy (read more at Drugwise). You can get a fine or prison sentence if you take, carry or make drugs, also if you sell, deal or share drugs (also called ‘supplying’ them). The penalties depend on the type of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it. The maximum penalties depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is. Read more here.

The Home Office have recently published their updated definition on spiking. It is illegal to cause another person to drink, eat or inject alcohol or substances against their will. Anyone found to have spiked another can face tough prison sentences.

Useful Links

Within Wales, the Substance Misuse National Partnership Board advises on reducing problems caused by drugs and alcohol. See the latest version of its plan.

Read the plan

Substance Misuse Area Planning Boards support the regional planning, commissioning and delivery of substance misuse services.

Read the Document

For a wide range of Welsh Government information – Drug misuse and dependency 

Visit the .Gov Website

DAN 24/7 – The Law & UK Drug Classifications

Visit the Website

Wales Crimestoppers campaigns 

National Crime Agency – Intelligence Assessment: County Lines, Gangs, and Safeguarding

Visit the Website

UK Government – Review of drugs: phase one report, Review of Drugs – evidence relating to drug use, supply and effects, including current trends and future risks, Dame Carol Black, February 2020 and Review of drugs: phase two report (applies to England but with relevance for Wales)

Read the Report

DrugWise – Evidenced based information

Visit the Website

Stats Wales – Latest statistics on referrals to drug and alcohol treatment agencies in Wales

Visit the Website

Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

If you have suspicions about drug trafficking or dealing please report it to your local police on 101 or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 in an emergency.

Dan 24/7 – Free & Confidential Bilingual Drug and Alcohol Helpline DAN 247 – Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline. Call DAN 24/7 on 0808 808 2234 anytime day or night for help and advice or text DAN to 81066.

Access Drug & Alcohol Support services from Kaleidoscope Project or visit our Directory for services near you.

Talk to FRANK for information on Buying medicines online.