How sex traffickers use drug addiction to recruit and control their victims
Thousands of people flock to the recovery capital in Florida every year for the treatment of addiction and substance abuse. Sex traffickers know this and are constantly patrolling the streets looking for vulnerable people who are addicts or are looking to get high. Most of these people are not from Florida and have no idea that human trafficking runs rampant throughout the state. As a result, they often put themselves in very dangerous situations without realizing it.
Most sex traffickers will offer the “first hit” free, and once their victims are hooked and desperate for more they convince them to come with them. Once that happens they are often trapped.
Learning the ways they use substances to lure and trap their victims is the best way to protect yourself from these traffickers. They use methods such as:
- Recruitment through substance use: Traffickers may target individuals with existing substance abuse issues to recruit into a trafficking situation.
- Control through substance addiction: Traffickers may also use substance addiction to keep victims in a trafficking situation. It can be framed as a reward or punishment, or as a way to decrease the victim’s ability to resist trafficking and abuse.
- Substance abuse as a coping mechanism: Some victims of human trafficking may abuse substances as a response to the trauma of their trafficking victimization.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sex or labor trafficking, various medical and mental health issues can arise due to subsequent substance abuse problems. Victims may have feelings of powerlessness stemming from the misperception that the incident or series of incidents are somehow their fault.
It is important for hotlines or response teams to screen for suicidal or homicidal ideations or respond to medical emergencies such as detox from substance abuse. These extreme, but not uncommon, scenarios underline the need to partner with service organizations that offer unique expertise in responding appropriately to such crisis situations.
Florida Abolitionist provides a 24/7 trauma-informed hotline and ensures victims receive detox or other appropriate services as soon as they are recovered.
Crystal Hampton is a 37-year-old avid writer from South Florida. She loves snuggling with her teacup Yorkie Gator and boyfriend Adam. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.
MS- Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis
B.Ed.- Bachelors in Elementary Education