Human Trafficking Awareness Month: Human Trafficking and Addiction

January is national slavery and human trafficking awareness month, as declared in 2010 by the former President of the United States, Barack Obama. While human trafficking is often thought of as a historic issue, sadly, it is a growing and current problem in the United States. Due to the psychological effects of being a victim of human trafficking, drug addiction is often correlated with this traumatic issue. As a result, human trafficking and addiction is a major problem in the country.

Drugs and alcohol are often used by perpetrators to lure victims into human trafficking. Oftentimes, these perpetrators will utilize drugs to keep a victim stuck in the cycle of addiction, keeping them dependent on their abuser for drugs. Because of this, survivors of trafficking have to not only escape from their abuser but also find themselves addiction treatment. This can be extremely difficult and lead to a lengthened cycle of addiction. However, with the help of professional dual diagnosis addiction treatment, survivors of human trafficking and addiction will recover.

What is Human Trafficking?

According to The United States Department of Justice:

“Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern-day slavery, is a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts.  The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological.  The exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used.”[1]

Unfortunately, human trafficking can happen to anyone. In other words, there is no clear-cut idea of what a human trafficking victim looks like. Someone may become a victim to human trafficking regardless of their:

  • Race or color
  • National origin
  • Disabilities
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender or gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Education level
  • Citizenship status

While human trafficking can happen to anyone, traffickers typically prey on people who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unstable situation, or are in search of a better life. Keeping this in mind, the victims of trafficking are typically provided with false promises of love, a good job, or a stable life. This is used to lure or force them into situations where they are forced to work under dangerous and unsanitary conditions with little or no pay.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the most vulnerable populations for human trafficking include American Indian/Alaska Native communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, undocumented migrants, runaway and homeless youth, as well as guest-workers and low-income individuals.[1]

There are no defining characteristics of a trafficking victim and the traffickers themselves also vary. For example, perpetrators may be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, family members, partners, acquaintances, or strangers. Additionally, some traffickers work alone while others work as part of an enterprise. While people assume that all traffickers are males, women traffickers are just as common.

The Link Between Human Trafficking and Drug Addiction

 

human trafficking and addiction

Human trafficking and drug abuse are linked in a few ways. Addiction may be seen as a vulnerability to human traffickers, causing addicts to be a common target. On the other hand, addiction could be used as a form of control over victims. Whatever the case may be, drug addiction and human trafficking are both serious issues in today’s society.

Being Targeted for Human Trafficking Due to an Existing Addiction

Drug addiction is expensive. As someone’s tolerance rises, so does the cost of their drugs. As a result, many addicts turn to dangerous situations to obtain money to fuel their addiction. At the same time, the more addicted an individual is, the more likely it becomes for them to engage in increasingly risky behaviors. This may include lying, cheating, stealing, and even selling their bodies.

According to Narconon, “People who are taken into the human trafficking system are often coerced into doing drugs because they already had substance abuse problems, to begin with (and those substance abuse issues were used as leverage to get the individual to enter the sex trade or slave trade).”[2]

Addiction Used as Coercion and Control to Lure Victims Into Human Trafficking

If a victim was not already suffering from drug addiction before their exploitation, traffickers might use drugs to control their victims and, in a sense, brainwash them. This helps traffickers to keep victims stuck in an exploitative situation.

This works, as doing what the traffickers demand prevents the victim from experiencing the pain of withdrawal. Oftentimes, victims will attempt to refuse the drugs as a form of defiance, or as a means to break free from trafficking. However, this leads them to experience withdrawal, pushing them further under the control of their perpetrator.

Drug and alcohol abuse might also be a coping mechanism, helping the victim endure the trauma sustained during exploitation and trafficking. However, the numbing effect which makes the situation more bearable may begin to impact their memory. Unfortunately, this may lead the victim/survivor to be unable to recall events, thus calling into question their reliability as a witness in prosecution. This creates an obvious hurdle for justice.

Common Signs of Human Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking are usually hidden in plain sight. Human trafficking is illegal, and being able to spot the signs of this awful crime could help save a life.

The Department of Homeland Security reports that the common indicators of human trafficking include:[3]

  • Appearing disconnected from family, friends, and community organizations
  • Poor or no school attendance
  • The sudden or dramatic change in behavior
  • Being engaged in paid sex acts
  • Showing signs of mental or physical abuse, or being disoriented and confused
  • Bruises on the body in various stages of healing
  • Appearing fearful, timid, or submissive
  • Showing signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care
  • Often being in the company of someone who seems to be in control of the situation
  • Appearing to be coached on what to say
  • Needlessly living in unsuitable conditions
  • Lack of personal possessions and a stable living situation
  • Little to no freedom of movement to live their own life

Treatment for Addiction and Human Trafficking Survivors

A person who has been a victim of human trafficking may live in fear of both freedom and withdrawal from drugs. It is not uncommon to face feelings of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the forced activities related to human trafficking and addiction to substances. Fortunately, there is help available.

Recovering from these issues may be difficult, however, a residential addiction treatment program can help you or a loved one break free from your substance abuse problem. Additionally, we will help you to reclaim your life through compassionate care and personalized therapies. Contact CWC Recovery to speak with one of our specialists about getting started.

References:

  1. https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking/what-is-human-trafficking
  2. https://www.narconon.org/blog/human-trafficking-and-drug-abuse.html
  3. https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking

Medically Reviewed: January 5, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff

Clinical Team

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Content on this page has been reviewed by CWC Medical Staff for accuracy.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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