How has the opioid epidemic contributed to the growth of the sex trafficking industry?

We have all heard it in the news, and many of us know of loved ones who have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis that is sweeping our nation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 Americans die from overdosing on opioids everyday. The recent increase in prescribed opioids for pain management, as well as the increase in quality and availability of product have contributed to the steep increase in use across the country.

But how does this affect the sex trafficking industry? We asked Detective Christopher Jones to give us some insight into what he is seeing locally here in Lancaster County.

NSI: Compared to ten years ago, what does the opioid epidemic look like to you today? How often do you encounter it?  

Detective Jones: The problem has grown exponentially over the past 10 years in terms of the amount of users as well as the quality of the product. Because I’m not on the street, I don’t deal with it as much as our patrol officers would.  I would say they would deal with it daily, as many of our thefts and other crimes are a direct result of opioid use.

NSI:Specifically with sex trafficking, is it common to find opioid use where there is trafficking going on?

Detective Jones: I would estimate that 90% of the females we have encountered are involved with Opioids.

NSI: What makes the drug industry so intertwined with the trafficking industry in your opinion?

Detective Jones: Because they both attempt to make money at the expense of other people and attempt to evade Law Enforcement while doing it , they share a similar business strategy.   Also, because many of these girls are addicted to drugs, it provides the pimps the ability to supply the girls at wholesale prices.

NSI: How does the rise in opioid use in our country change the strategies you and your department are using to help these women? Does it make your job more difficult?

Detective Jones: In many ways the drug addiction is creating the need for money in order to get high.   The prostitution related activities provide a way to earn the money to purchase the drugs. When trying to achieve true change you must be able to deal with both of these issues and provide immediate solutions.   Otherwise, the girls quickly fall back to what they know. Pimps understand this and use it to their advantage. During a recent case the pimp kept the girls in drug debt in order to control them. He would take ½ of the money up front, and then basically take the rest by selling them drugs.