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California Central District Drug Threat Assessment
May 2001

Other Dangerous Drugs

Other dangerous drugs include stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, illegally diverted pharmaceuticals, inhalants, and anabolic steroids. The abuse of designer or club drugs is associated with all-night dance parties called raves and is gaining popularity in the Central District. Younger party crowds, mostly teenagers and young adults, abuse these drugs. The risk of overdosing is greater because users often mix club drugs with alcohol, other drugs, or both.

At the local level, reports indicate an increase in the use of designer drugs in the Hollywood and West Valley areas of Los Angeles. The sale of drugs such as ecstasy, GHB, and Rohypnol is spreading from rave clubs to open-air street markets.



MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also called Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, or X, is a synthetic psychoactive drug with amphetamine- like and hallucinogenic properties. MDMA was patented in Germany in 1914 and was sometimes given to psychiatric patients to assist in psychotherapy. This practice was never approved by the American Psychological Association or the Food and Drug Administration. Users say MDMA, sometimes called the "hug drug," makes them feel good. However, the drug may cause psychological difficulties similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse including confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, and paranoia. The physical effects include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.

MDMA taken in high doses can be extremely dangerous. It can cause a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. MDMA use may lead to heart attack, stroke, and seizure as reported in some fatal cases at raves. Recent research links MDMA to long-term, possibly permanent, damage to parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory. There is also evidence that individuals who develop a rash after using MDMA may suffer severe liver damage or other serious side effects.

In the Central District, MDMA is popular at clubs, raves, and rock concerts and is used mostly by people between the ages of 18 and 25. An increasing problem among users in the district is that many producers of MDMA use poor quality, dangerous substances during production. In Los Angeles, green triangle-stamped tablets sold as MDMA were laced with DXM (dextromethorphan), a common additive in many cough suppressants. Another variant selling as MDMA is PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine). PMA was responsible for several deaths in Florida and Chicago. Tablets containing PMA are stamped with three diamonds in the pattern of the Mitsubishi corporate logo.

One tablet of MDMA sells for $7 at the wholesale level and $10 to $20 at the retail level. The availability of MDMA increased in the Los Angeles area as evidenced by the quantity of seizures over the last year. On January 31, 2000, USCS inspectors intercepted 40,853 MDMA tablets at LAX. Less than 3 months later, U.S. officials made what was at that time the single largest MDMA seizure in the United States, when approximately 490,000 tablets were seized in Los Angeles. This record was broken on July 20, 2000, when 2.1 million MDMA tablets--with an estimated street value of $40 million--were seized at LAX on a plane arriving from Paris, France. The group responsible for this shipment was linked to several other large seizures around the world, including 700 pounds of MDMA found by USCS agents in 1999.

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Nationally, the availability of MDMA skyrocketed during the mid- to late-1990s. In 1993, only 196 MDMA tablets were sent to DEA laboratories for analysis compared with 143,600 tablets in 1998. Within the first 5 months of 1999, this number exceeded 216,000. USCS seizure amounts increased slightly from 370,000 MDMA tablets in 1997 to 380,000 tablets in 1998, before climbing to over 950,000 tablets in the first 5 months of 1999.

More than 95 percent of the MDMA available in the Los Angeles area is produced in and shipped from European countries, particularly the Netherlands, via air and sea routes. Israeli organized crime syndicates control most of the European market and are the primary source for distribution groups in the United States. They smuggle MDMA tablets via couriers aboard commercial flights, through express mail services, or in airfreight shipments. Rather than being shipped directly from Europe, some MDMA tablets are now sent to the United States via Mexico. Once in Mexico, the tablets are smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by couriers. Although Israeli groups control most distribution, the Russian Mafia also is involved in the shipment of MDMA into the district.

In the USCS investigation Operation Paris Express, a Los Angeles-based MDMA trafficking organization was dismantled. The alleged leader of the organization was an Israeli émigré who had resided in Southern California since 1985. The organization allegedly smuggled in excess of 9 million MDMA tablets into the United States over a 3-year period. Nearly 650,000 MDMA tablets were seized as a result of the investigation. The alleged source of supply for this organization was a Dutch chemist who produced the MDMA in Europe; senior members of the MDMA trafficking organization often traveled to Amsterdam or Brussels to pick up the tablets. The organization employed 30 to 50 couriers who posed as tourists or business executives to smuggle quantities of MDMA into the United States from Paris. The couriers included cocktail waitresses, exotic dancers, and couples with blue-collar backgrounds. Couriers were compensated for smuggling services with a paid vacation to France and $10,000 to $15,000 cash. Lieutenants of this organization told the couriers what to wear and provided them with cover stories. The couriers were photographed so other organization members could recognize them when they arrived in Europe. False-bottomed luggage was the method of concealment. Couriers were arrested in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.

Ecstasy Rave Bust: Riverside County Officials Seize Drugs, Cash, and Arrest Five

Investigators arrested five people, including a rave party promoter, and seized $2.5 million in cash and hundreds of pounds of MDMA. The arrests, which took place around Los Angeles County in November 2000, ended a 10-month investigation by the Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team based in Los Angeles County.

Source: Associated Press, 4 November 2000.

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GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), also known as liquid ecstasy, scoop, grievous bodily harm, and Georgia home boy, is abused for its euphoric, sedative, and anabolic effects; however, use can cause insomnia, anxiety, tremors, sweating and induce coma. When GHB is combined with methamphetamine, there is an increased risk of seizure. Overdoses can occur quickly; some of the effects include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, impaired breathing, and death. GHB is cleared from the body quickly and may be difficult to detect in emergency rooms and other treatment facilities. The drug is increasingly implicated in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and fatalities. GHB can be made from easily obtainable ingredients, one of which is GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a solvent commonly used as a paint stripper. GHB can be produced in the home with commonly available ingredients using recipes often found on Internet sites. 

 GHB and Date Rape

GHB has been used as a date rape drug. GHB, when slipped into an alcoholic drink, is used to incapacitate unsuspecting victims for nonconsensual sex. Because alcohol is a depressant, the toxicity of GHB is intensified, further compounding the victim's chances of having an adverse reaction to the drug. Recorded effects of GHB toxicity include seizure, respiratory depression, vomiting, amnesia, coma, and death.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department successfully prosecuted 3 people for drugging and raping 10 women and poisoning 6 others. The victims were enticed to unknowingly drink GHB in beverages such as cinnamon-flavored liqueurs, Long Island ice teas, or margaritas to cover the unpleasant, salty taste associated with GHB.

According to the Community Epidemiology Work Group, GHB use is increasing in the Los Angeles area. The wholesale price of GHB ranges between $65 and $100 per 16-ounce bottle while GHB costs between $200 to $300 per gallon. The retail price of GHB ranges between $5 and $20 per capful. On February 14, 2000, the president signed a law banning the possession of GHB and placing it in the same category as cocaine and heroin under the Controlled Substances Act.

Use of GBL, a precursor of GHB, decreased recently. Publicity concerning GBL overdoses aided in reducing fatalities associated with use. While GBL is still present at raves, GBL is more frequently used at health clubs and sports bars to enhance muscle growth.

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LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perception. It is odorless, colorless, and has a slightly bitter taste. LSD exists in more forms than ever before, most commonly in liquid, crystal, or gel form but also in blotter paper, microdots, gel tabs, sugar cubes, and liquid vials. Common street names are acid, boomers, and yellow sunshines. Effects are evident 30 to 90 minutes after taking LSD, although many users experience long-term effects called "flashbacks." Historically, LSD has been produced primarily in northern California. A small number of chemists in northern California produce LSD, which is distributed by close-knit groups of individuals using air and land methods. 

LSD is readily available on college campuses and in suburban middle and high schools. Its popularity as a club drug increased slightly, but overall use remains stable. The strength of LSD samples ranges from 20 to 80 micrograms per dose, much less than the 100 to 200 micrograms commonly reported during the 1960s and early 1970s. Since the mid-1990s, pricing and distribution in the Los Angeles area have remained stable. The price of LSD is $1,000 per gram at the wholesale level. Each dose of LSD costs between $1 and $5.



PCP was originally developed as an intravenous anesthetic. Use of PCP in humans was discontinued in 1965 because it was found that patients became agitated, delusional, and irrational while recovering from its effects. PCP is now illegally produced in clandestine laboratories and is sold on the street as angel dust, ozone, wack, and rocket fuel.

PCP is a white, soluble, crystalline powder with a bitter chemical taste. It can be mixed with dyes and may turn up in the illicit drug market as tablets, capsules, or colored powders. PCP may be snorted, smoked, or eaten. For smoking purposes, PCP may be applied to mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana. PCP combined with marijuana is called killer joint or crystal supergrass.

PCP is addictive; its use often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. Users cite feelings of strength, power, invulnerability, and a numbing effect on the mind. At low to moderate doses, physiological effects include a slight increase in respiration and a more pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Respiration becomes shallow, flushing and profuse sweating occur, and generalized numbness of the extremities and lack of muscle coordination also may occur. Psychological effects include distinct changes in body awareness similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. PCP use by adolescents may interfere with hormones related to normal growth and development and the learning process. At high doses, there is a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. High doses can also cause seizure, coma, and sometimes death. Long-term abusers may suffer memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. PCP has sedative effects and, when mixed with alcohol or central nervous system depressants, may lead to coma.

The Los Angeles HIDTA reports a resurgence in PCP trafficking. African American street gangs based in Los Angeles are responsible for the production and distribution of PCP. Most of the PCP produced in the Los Angeles HIDTA is destined for markets outside that jurisdiction. Hispanic gangs also sell PCP at the retail level. The price of PCP remains stable between $6,500 and $8,000 per gallon at the wholesale level and between $125 and $175 per ounce at the retail level.

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Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), also called roofies, rophies, Roche, and the forget-me pill, belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazapines (Valium, Halcion, Xanax, Versed). Rohypnol is not approved for prescription use in the United States. Rohypnol produces sedative-hypnotic effects, including muscle relaxation and amnesia, and can also cause physiological and psychological dependence.

Rohypnol is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves in beverages. It can cause severe retrograde amnesia. The effects of Rohypnol are exacerbated by the use of alcohol, and even without alcohol, 1 milligram can impair or incapacitate a victim for 8 to 12 hours. Because of these characteristics, it has been used as a date rape drug.

Until 1998, Rohypnol was colorless and dissolved quickly in liquid. In 1998 the manufacturer changed the formula, adding blue dye and making it more difficult to dissolve so intended victims of sexual assault could more easily detect the drug in a drink. While these changes are discernible in a transparent container, they may not be detectable in an opaque or metal container. It has been suggested that the manufacturer modify the drug so that it is bitter to the taste.

 Rohypnol frequently is used in conjunction with other drugs at raves. Although importation into the United States is banned, it remains readily available and inexpensive in Mexico--the primary source area. The retail price for Rohypnol ranges between $6 and $10 per 1-milligram pill.

During 1995, Rohypnol was widely available in the Los Angeles area. On January 1, 1997, flunitrazepam became a Schedule IV Controlled Substance in California. Since then, availability dropped significantly, especially on the streets of Los Angeles.

While Rohypnol is a popular teenage drug in other areas, in Los Angeles it is most commonly abused by hardcore heroin and cocaine users, who also abuse clonazepam, a drug similar to Rohypnol. Clonazepam is legal in the United States under the brand name Klonopin and in Mexico as Rivotril. These drugs enhance the effects of heroin and other opiates.



Ketamine or ketamine hydrochloride, also known as K, special K, vitamin K, kitty kat, and cat valiums, is commercially sold as Ketalar. It is an injectable anesthetic approved for both human and animal use. Ketamine is produced in liquid, powder, or pill form. Ketamine in its liquid form can be injected either intramuscularly or intravenously, but it can also be made into a tablet or powder by evaporating the liquid. In powdered form, ketamine can be mistaken for cocaine or methamphetamine and is often snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products.

At high doses, ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Low-dose intoxication from ketamine results in attention, learning, and memory impairment. Short-term use of ketamine causes hallucinations; its major effect is disassociation, which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences. Ketamine gained popularity among abusers in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP. Ketamine abusers in the United States and the United Kingdom have reported incidents similar to bad LSD trips. While under the influence of the drug, they may believe they can fly or may attempt to get out of moving vehicles. Specific information for ketamine abuse in the Central District was not available.


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