What are Drug Agents?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Drug agents are law enforcement officers who are tasked with enforcing drug codes. They may work for regulatory agencies which handle the drug code for a particular nation, or they may be part of other law enforcement agencies. For example, the United States Coast Guard has drug agents who investigate suspected drug smugglers who operate by boat and take actions against them. Work as a drug agent can be incredibly varied, and like other law enforcement careers, it requires a close attention to detail and an impeccable personal record.

Law enforcement officers that enforce drug codes are known as drug agents.
Law enforcement officers that enforce drug codes are known as drug agents.

Many nations have a variety of laws on the books concerning both legal and illegal drugs. Drug agents are responsible for identifying sources of illegal drugs, and for cutting these sources off so that the drugs cannot continue to enter the country. They may also deal with the enforcement of regional laws, such as legislation which specifically permits certain people to use normally banned substances in religious rituals.

Drug agents are task with preventing drug smuggling.
Drug agents are task with preventing drug smuggling.

Like other law enforcement officers, a drug agent is trained to handle weapons and follow basic government procedure. He or she is also given training which provides investigation skills, including the ability to go under cover for investigations, and many drug agents cooperate with other government agencies to accomplish drug busts. For example, a drug agent may investigate a suspected methamphetamine production laboratory in a city, and call in that city's police force for the bust. Or, a drug agent might involve tax investigators to track and attack illegal sources of revenue.

Prescription drugs may be more easily tracked by law enforcement.
Prescription drugs may be more easily tracked by law enforcement.

In addition to field work, a drug agent also does a great deal of work in the office. Drug agents must cooperate with other agencies on law enforcement tasks, and they are often forced to analyze large amounts of data gathered by field agents. For instance, agents who investigate marijuana cultivation may spend time in the office going over aerial photography for signs of grow operations. Drug detectives must also help to build cases against the people they investigate, compiling data and hard evidence which can be used in court.

Drug agents must find the sources of illegal drugs and prevent them from entering the country.
Drug agents must find the sources of illegal drugs and prevent them from entering the country.

In order to become a drug agent, someone can apply directly into a drug enforcement agency, or pursue a career in law enforcement or the military and specialize in issues related to drugs. Potential agents must be able to pass a background check which includes an investigation into criminal history and interviews with personal references. People with a history of drug use or abuse are specifically barred from working as drug agents, and people who are judged to have poor character may be barred from employment by the government, excluding them from a career in drug enforcement.

Drug agents may have to deal with violent offenders.
Drug agents may have to deal with violent offenders.
Drug agents must sometimes go undercover to investigate drug smuggling.
Drug agents must sometimes go undercover to investigate drug smuggling.
Drug agents may work in areas that are considered hot beds for drugs.
Drug agents may work in areas that are considered hot beds for drugs.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

indemnifyme

I had no idea that drug agents had to do so much paperwork! On television shows, it looks like most drug agents have action packed days, where they chase criminals around and make arrests all the time!

I suppose it makes sense though. In the real world, there are a lot of legal procedures you have to follow before arresting someone or even placing someone under surveillance. Plus, it stands to reason drug agents would have to go through a lot of data to find people who are growing and selling drugs so they can make those arrests!

KaBoom

@JaneAir - That's interesting. I had no idea the Coast Guard was involved in the "War on Drugs" until I read this article. You definitely don't hear about the Coast Guard as much as some of the other branches of the military.

Anyway, I'm not surprised that people have to pass a background check in order to become a drug agent. It seems like you would definitely want drug agents to have good character, because there would probably be a lot of opportunities for an unscrupulous drug agent to commit a crime.

I'm sure it would be easy for an unethical drug agent to sell some of the product they intercept for a little side income!

JaneAir

There are definitely different types of drug enforcement agents. As the article said, the Coast Guard actually does a lot of work intercepting drug smugglers on boats.

I have a friend who is in the Coast Guard, and he told me about some of his experiences busting people for drug trafficking on water. However, that's not all he did in the Coast Guard. He was also involved in search and rescue missions and other things like that.

I think in the Coast Guard they don't have specific drug agents, but everyone does a lot of different kinds of missions.

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