A qualitative examination of the effects of international counter-drug interdictions

Alexander G. Toth, Ojmarrh Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this study is to utilize unique qualitative data to determine the effects of sporadic international drug interdictions on drug trafficking, and to assess whether the responses of drug traffickers align with rational choice theory. Methods: Qualitative data obtained from 23 high-level United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informants, who are embedded in international drug trafficking groups, are examined to identify common responses to drug interdiction operations. Results: The findings indicate that sporadic counter-drug interdictions do not a have permanent deterrent effect on transnational drug smuggling operations. However, these types of law enforcement operations produce temporary alterations in drug trafficking, as traffickers adopted a variety of methods to thwart the efforts of law enforcement—often by relying on information acquired from corrupt local law enforcement. The results also indicate that while interdiction operations displaced trafficking activities (temporally, spatially, and methodological), there is little evidence that drug traffickers responded to such operations by moving into new areas (i.e., malign spatial displacement). Conclusion: Sporadic international drug interdiction programs do little to deter drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) from engaging in their illicit trade. Instead, DTOs adjust in a calculating manner to these operations to ensure that their illegal products reach consumer marketplaces, which is congruent with the rational choice theoretical perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Deterrence
  • Drug enforcement
  • Drug policy
  • Rational choice theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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