Numerous myths have surrounded the drug trade in Central Asia over the past two decades. Analysts writing on the issue and the law enforcement structures of the respective countries often have no complete and accurate information about the scale of the trade, the different groups involved and the role of drugs-related money in politics. Generally there are two dominating views: the first considers Kyrgyzstan to be a virtual narco-state and overstates the involvement of politicians and police officials; the alternative underestimates the role of state representatives, describes the smuggling as more decentralised and chaotic and emphasises the role of organised crime gangs and radical Islamic organisations. Based on the interviews in the field conducted in January–March 2012, this paper analyses these alternative perspectives and the empirical evidence supporting these views. It highlights methodological problems relating to research on similar issues, elucidates networks of smuggling and their links with politics and reflects on complexities in addressing these challenges.