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Illinois Drug Threat Assessment Update
May 2002

Other Dangerous Drugs

The distribution and abuse of other dangerous drugs--including the stimulant MDMA, the depressants GHB and ketamine, and the hallucinogens PCP and LSD--pose an increasing threat, particularly to the state's teenagers and young adults. The diversion and abuse of pharmaceuticals also are serious and growing concerns in the state.



MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is readily available in Illinois and is the most commonly abused club drug in the state, particularly in the Chicago area. Most MDMA available in the state is produced in Western Europe, primarily the Netherlands and Belgium, and is transported to Illinois via package delivery services and by couriers on commercial airlines. However, law enforcement officials in Chicago seized a tablet press in early 2002, indicating that powdered MDMA possibly is being pressed into tablets in the area.

Asian, Eastern European, and Israeli criminal groups smuggle most of the MDMA currently available in Illinois. These groups typically transport the drug in tablet form directly to Chicago or through New York City. However, law enforcement reporting reveals that MDMA increasingly is being transported in tablet and powdered forms through cities in Canada en route to Chicago. Powdered MDMA is transported to Canada, pressed into tablets or placed into capsules, and then transported to Chicago for distribution.

The criminal groups that transport MDMA into Illinois are the drug's primary wholesale distributors. They usually sell large quantities of tablets (5,000 or more) to midlevel dealers--primarily ethnic criminal groups and independent Caucasian dealers. MDMA typically is sold and abused by teenagers and young adults at raves and dance clubs, on college and high school campuses, and at private parties. MDMA tablets sell for $5 to $7 at the wholesale level, $7 to $15 at the midlevel, and $20 to $30 at the retail level.


MDMA, also known as ecstasy, Adam, XTC, E, and X, is a stimulant and low-level hallucinogen. Sometimes called the hug drug, MDMA purportedly helps abusers to be more "in touch" with others and "opens channels of communication." However, abuse of the drug can cause psychological problems similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse including confusion, depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and paranoia. The physical effects can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA abuse also can cause a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscle breakdown, kidney failure, cardiovascular system failure, stroke, or seizure as reported in some fatal cases. Research suggests that MDMA abuse may result in long-term and sometimes permanent damage to parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory.

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GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is available throughout the state, but it is abused most frequently in the Chicago metropolitan area. In 2001 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials at the Chicago HIDTA seized approximately 6,591 milliliters of liquid GHB and over 86 pounds of powdered GHB. The drug typically is used by young adults at raves and dance clubs. Because of its sedative properties, GHB has also been used to facilitate sexual assault. It usually is sold in liquid and powdered forms for $5 to $10 per dose at the retail level.



The ketamine available in Illinois is smuggled into the state from Mexico or is stolen from veterinary offices. Ketamine is an injectable anesthetic that, when taken in large doses, causes reactions similar to those experienced with PCP abuse. Local independent dealers are the primary distributors of ketamine in Illinois. The drug usually is sold at raves and dance clubs. It is sold in liquid and powdered forms for approximately $60 per dose.



The hallucinogen PCP (phencyclidine) is becoming increasingly available in Illinois. The drug is produced and transported to the state from surrounding areas such as Gary, Indiana, and it is also produced in Chicago. The drug is distributed by street gangs and local independent dealers. PCP abusers often display unpredictable and violent behavior that may present a danger to law enforcement officials and others. PCP commonly is smoked in cigarettes that have been dipped in the liquid form of the drug. One PCP-laced cigarette sells for $15 at the retail level.



The hallucinogen LSD (lysergic acid diethyl-amide) is available in Illinois, but to a lesser extent than PCP. LSD often is applied to blotter paper and candy or disguised as breath freshener drops. The drug usually is sold at raves and dance clubs by local independent dealers for $15 to $20 per dose.


Diverted Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals are diverted, distributed, and abused in Illinois; however, the threat posed by the diversion, distribution, and abuse of pharmaceuticals is lower than that of other illicit drugs. Commonly abused pharmaceuticals include OxyContin, Valium, Vicodin, and Xanax. Pharmaceuticals generally are acquired by abusers and distributors through forged or stolen prescriptions, "doctor shopping" (individuals who may or may not have a legitimate ailment visit numerous physicians to obtain drugs in excess of what should be legitimately prescribed), and theft from pharmacies and nursing homes. 


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