Scientists Reveal How The Drug Trade Is Destroying The Rainforest | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Scientists Reveal How The Drug Trade Is Destroying The Rainforest

Narco-traffickers are rolling back decades of conservation work by cutting down rainforests and leaving ecological destruction in its wake.


Photo via

By John Lavitt


| Share

In a frightening report published in the journal Science, top researchers revealed how the cocaine trade has become a serious hazard to the ecology of the world's rainforest through deforestation.

The combination of building landing strips in vulnerable areas with the scooping up of rainforest land for ranching operations and palm oil plantations has resulted in entrenched threats to the rain forest. In Central America, where both palm oil plantations and ranching are destroying ecologically important lands, narco-traffickers bribe local officials to look the other way, making law enforcement ineffective. The result is a stripping-down of the rainforest to make way for bare grazing lands and cheap palm oil facilities.

Kendra McSweeney, lead author of the new paper, described the severity of the situation. "There are profound ecological impacts in trafficking corridors," she said. "We wondered who had the money and impunity to do that, and when we looked into it we found that the answer was narco-traffickers…The flow of drugs through the region resulted in ecological devastation."

In their paper, McSweeney and her fellow scientists noted that forest loss at the hands of the drug traffickers provoked UNESCO to list Honduras's Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve as a "World Heritage in Danger" in 2011. The violent presence of the drug trade, however, has inhibited any real conservation work; both the United Nations and international development agencies have pulled workers from the region because of the growing danger caused by the narco-traffickers' presence.

Frustrated by political impotence, McSweeney said, "Conservation groups have spent tremendous amounts of money on protecting Central American biodiversity, and it's being undone…Natural scientists have for a long time felt that drug policy has nothing to do with them, but we need them to join the conversation.”

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
PMS: A Natural Threat to Sobriety

I remember slamming things around the kitchen one night and feeling like I’d lost my mind. I was angry about something so minor, I literally can’t remember what it was and I don’t know that I knew then either

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv