Sometimes also referred to as couriers, drug mules make up important aspects of the drug trade, without whom the business could not exist. The name usually applies to individuals who traffic drugs across international borders, often going to extremes to guarantee the safe transport of illicit substances. For as often as they choose to operate under the employment of drug dealers and crime organizations, drug mules and couriers put their reputations and sometimes even their lives at risk, jeopardizing much more than they ever receive in return for their services.
Considering the substantial risk of jail time, individuals may wonder about the motives of drug couriers. Perhaps the most prominent motive is money. Crime organizations dealing in illegal narcotics possess the means to offer drug mules large sums of money in exchange for their services, making the seemingly simple task of escorting drugs over international borders too good to ignore. Mules may even receive material goods at the end of their respective transactions, usually lavish, expensive items that individuals with otherwise modest incomes may not have the funds to purchase independently.
Those not seeking monetary gain may choose to act as drug mules for other means of profit. For example, individuals addicted to drugs may act as couriers to procure percentages of the narcotics for themselves. However, this is particularly risky for the drug dealers. Giving addicts access to large amounts of narcotics can greatly increase the temptation to ingest or steal them, and the transactions may turn out less than favorable for dealers who receive less than they had originally expected.
Desperation may also play a role in the mindset of a drug mule. On multiple occasions, American tourists vacationing in small countries may find themselves preyed upon by drug traffickers looking for easy targets. Armed traffickers may threaten or otherwise intimidate visitors to their nations, forcing them to carry drugs across international borders. Usually, the reasoning behind this pertains to the expectations of racism in predominantly homogenous societies. For example, a drug trafficker in Columbia may force an American tourist to carry drugs through a United States airport terminal, banking on the unlikelihood of an American citizen bringing drugs onto American soil.
To accomplish their given tasks, drug mules employ various methods to meet various needs. Generally, the method chosen depends greatly on the amount of drugs that the courier must carry over international borders. A transaction on a small scale may allow a drug mule to hide small pouches of powdered drugs like cocaine or heroin in flip flops. Similarly, small transactions can allow drug mules to carry the products externally by taping them around their legs or hiding them in padded clothing. Female drug mules can hide small pouches of drugs sewn into their bras, whereas male drug mules may get away with hiding illegal substances in hats or thick coats.
Drug mules are creative, often willing to exploit themselves and others for their gain. This can mean stuffing a teddy bear full of heroin and giving it to a child before boarding a plane, lessening the risk of suspicion on the way through customs and security checks. Creativity can also lead drug couriers to pack drugs in inconspicuous objects like furniture and laptop computers, hoping to fool the scanners.
Larger transactions require more time and considerably higher risks. Perhaps the most dangerous kind of drug trafficking occurs when drug mules swallow capsules or plastic packets of narcotics, carrying them through customs internally. This method is especially risky on degrees of varying intensity, most notably in regard to the health of the drug couriers involved. Swallowing capsules sounds easy enough, but the danger of accidental breakage or leakage could lead to swift and unpleasant death.
Capsules and packets containing drugs that break in transit pose severe health risks for the couriers who have swallowed them. The drugs immediately empty into the stomach, quickly absorbed by the body and distributed almost instantly. It takes only a pinch of cocaine to get high, but an entire packet of pure cocaine emptying into the human body can be fatal. Following severe stomach cramps, couriers often slip into comas and die before help can arrive.
Drug couriers who swallow the narcotics to traffic over international borders take precautions to ensure their safety, but there is no accounting for unpredictability. Suffering trauma like a blow to the stomach or even eating a meal can cause drug packets to burst, putting the courier in grave danger. Furthermore, retrieval of the drugs is no easy task. Couriers often take handfuls of laxatives to pass the capsules and packets through their digestive systems, usually suffering great discomfort.
With the risk of serving time in prison and perhaps even winding up in a coffin, a drug courier takes on great danger when making the decision to traffic illegal narcotics. Whether couriers take small amounts of drugs strapped to their thighs or large amounts in their stomachs, they place themselves in jeopardy. From start to finish, the transactions are big gambles. Even for seasoned drug mules who have transported illegal substances before, their successes are based mostly on luck, and for individuals who break the law, luck usually tends to run out.