What is a Drug Dealer?

Forget the Movies; Drug Dealers Often Look Just Like You

Two people dealing drugs in alley
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A drug dealer is an individual who sells drugs, of any type or quantity, illegally. They can be small-time dealers who sell small quantities to offset the costs of their own drug use, or they can be highly organized groups and businessmen within high-organized operations that run like a serious business. 

Traditionally, drug dealers are seen as a key part of the problem of addiction in our communities, and there is often a lot of overlap with "pushing" controlled drugs such as marijuana, heroin, meth and cocaine.

Although this is the case with some drug dealers, in reality, there is a lot of variability among drug dealers, the types of drugs they sell, the reasons they sell, and who they sell drugs to. For example, there is currently an underground market for prescription pain medication for people who have chronic pain and are addicted to pain killers. When their pain medication use escalates, they are often labelled as "drug seeking," and their physician or insurance company may cut off their supply to the medications they need to control their pain, so they may turn to a drug dealer to purchase these drugs.

In a survey on why people started doing drugs, more than half of the respondents said they wanted to fit in. Drug dealers are very aware of this as a powerful selling tool. They know that you want to be included with your friends and not be different. In television and in the movies, drug dealers are usually very obvious, wearing garish clothes and being very open about what they are and what they do.

But in reality, many drug dealers are much more discreet and blend in very well. 

What Does a Drug Dealer Look Like?

The stereotype of a drug dealer is often someone who is uneducated, cruel and perhaps heavily tattooed or has a well-known criminal record. But drug dealers like that are often an anomaly; instead, drug dealers live and work right alongside law-abiding people.


They may have a regular day-job, a stable home and a loving family. Some don't even do drugs themselves and solely are in the business for the significant profits they can make. In a survey done of known drug-dealers, more than 75% of them had a full-time job with reputable companies. Many of them did very skilled jobs and had prestigious titles. 

Who Are Drug Dealers' Customers?

Customers come from every walk of life, from lower to upper class and every race and gender. Many market to students in high school or college, while others cater to professionals. There is a cottage drug dealing industry of prescription drugs, such as sedatives or medications for ADD, to help young professionals in high-pressure jobs cope with their roles. 

Regardless if a person is selling small quantities of leftover painkillers or is selling large batches of illegal substances, that person is a drug dealer and is violating the law. Doing any transactions with that person can have serious legal ramifications, including arrest and jail time.



Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Organized Drug Crimes". 2015. 

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