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The Largest Drug Busts in History 

The Biggest Drug Busts in History

The war on drugs has been going on for decades in an attempt to reduce the illegal drug trade. Drug trafficking is probably one of the most profitable illegal trades of all time.

At Banyan Philadelphia, we recognize that the drug trade is a dangerous source of income. However, the many dangers of drug trafficking don’t stop kingpins and dealers from selling. Over time, authorities have learned how to crack down on these crimes, landing thousands of assailants in prison. As a result, some of the biggest drug busts in history have discovered billions of dollars worth of illicit substances. 

Top Drug Busts in History 

When looking back at the history of drug use around the world, it’s clear that there are certain substances that are more commonly trafficked than others. For instance, most of the drug busts listed below are associated with either meth or cocaine, which are two of the most commonly trafficked drugs. 

2016 Ecuador Cocaine Bust 

In November 2016, over 81 metric tons of cocaine were seized in Ecuador. Cocaine trafficking has had a negative impact on the country, and authorities have attempted to break down further creation and distribution of this drug. This bust is one of the many signs authorities are fighting back. 

Cocaine is one of the most commonly trafficked drugs in the world, followed by methamphetamine and marijuana. Crack cocaine is extremely potent, highly addictive, and can cause severe physical harm to its users. A cocaine addiction can develop after a few uses, making it difficult for the individual to stop even if they want to. At Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia, we offer rehab for cocaine addictions that get to the bottom of what fuels your dependency. 

1991 Long Island Cocaine Drug Bust 

In 1991, authorities confiscated around 10,771 pounds (around 5 tons) of cocaine from a fishing boat on Long Island. At the time, this amount of cocaine equated to about $861 million. The cocaine was confiscated after a chase involving two planes, a helicopter, and three patrol boats. The drugs were believed to have been purchased from the Cali Cartel in Mexico by an organized crime family in New York. 

Operation Crystal Shield 

In October 2020, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced one of the largest drug busts in history. Operation Crystal Shield involved 893 pounds of cocaine, 13 pounds of heroin, and around 2,224 pounds of methamphetamine, making it the biggest meth bust in U.S. history. The operation involved around 80 investigators from nine different cities. The investigation began when agents began inspecting a drug trafficking organization involved with the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance that has various adverse effects on the mind and body, the most common being meth face. There are also various long-term effects of meth on the heart that can contribute to a host of other diseases. While many believe that they can quit at any time, meth addiction is a chronic disease, and people battling with this disease should undergo meth addiction treatment. 

Tranquilandia 1984 

Operation Tranquilandia was led by the DEA in 1984. This big drug bust is similar to the others because it’s linked to -- you guessed it -- cocaine. The bust resulted in a confiscation of 10 tons of cocaine, which was worth around $1.2 billion at the time. Although Tranquilandia is referred to as a drug lab, it’s actually much bigger. The processing laboratory in Colombia consisted of 17 labs and living spaces for workers. Fortunately, the combined efforts of the DEA and Colombian Police led to the drug operation’s demise. 

1995 12-Ton Cocaine Bust in Peru 

During a secret operation, the U.S. Coast Guard seized a ship smuggling over 12 tons of cocaine off the coast of Peru. The Colombian crew aboard the vessel had 10 members, each of which were taken to federal court on drug trafficking charges. The Coast Guard later confiscated another ship smuggling cocaine. 

5.5 Ton Cocaine Bust in Mexico 

This drug bust is pretty mysterious. After a plane from Tampa landed in Venezuela, the Mexican army seized the copilot. During his arrest, the pilot was able to make a mad dash and escape the scene. The plane was traveling with 5.5 tons of cocaine in its cargo. 

Port of Philadelphia's Packer Marine Terminal 

Last but not least is arguably the world's biggest drug bust ever: the raid at Port of Philadelphia's Packer Marine Terminal. On June 19th, 2019, federal authorities seized 39,525 pounds (almost 20 tons) of cocaine. The street value of the drugs was estimated at $1.3 billion. 

Philadelphia Drug Treatment 

While drug busts often seem like scenes from a movie, their dangers are very real. Drug trafficking is a large contributor to substance abuse in the U.S. Experimenting or trying any kind of substance is dangerous and can quickly lead to dependency. 

If you are battling with this disease, call us now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our Philadelphia substance abuse programs. 



IC - Ecuador Makes Biggest Cocaine Bust of 2016 as Drug Seizures Rise  

AP - Feds Make Third Largest Cocaine Seizure Ever 

KPBS - DEA Announces Biggest Meth Bust in U.S. History in Southland 

Historica - Tranquilandia  

LA Times - U.S. Seizes Record 12 Tons of Cocaine Off Coast of Peru 


Related Readings 

Cargo Ship Smuggling Cocaine 

Identifying Cocaine Paraphernalia  

Signs of Meth Use 


Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Largest Drug Busts in History 
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