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|National Drug Intelligence Center
National Drug Threat Assessment 2005
Introduction and Trends
The trafficking and abuse of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) pose a moderate threat to the United States. Most federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies report that MDMA is readily available and abused in their areas; however, levels of availability and abuse appear to be declining. Law enforcement reporting indicates that MDMA federal seizures and arrests have decreased each year since peaking in 2001. And demand for MDMA, while still relatively high, appears to be declining among adolescents and adults overall.
NDTS data for 2004 indicate that just 0.6 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide identified MDMA as their greatest drug threat, declining from 0.9 percent in 2002. Regionally, more state and local agencies in the Northeast (1.3%), Midwest (0.6%), and Southwest Regions (0.6%) identify MDMA as their greatest drug threat than agencies in the Pacific (0.2%), Southeast (0.1%), and West Regions (0.0%).
MDMA abuse results in numerous adverse psychological and physiological effects and can lead to serious consequences. MDMA abusers may experience confusion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, drug craving, and paranoia as well as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, tremors, rapid eye movement, and sweating or chills. Abusers of MDMA are at risk of dehydration, hyperthermia, heart or kidney failure, and even brain damage. Research indicates that MDMA use can lead to the depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are critical to normal functioning of the brain, including thought and memory processes.
MDMA abuse and trafficking typically are not associated with property crime or violent crime; however, MDMA-related criminal incidents appear to be increasing. NDTS data indicate that the percentage of state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide identifying MDMA as the drug that most contributed to property crime in their areas remained stable at 0.1 percent in both 2003 and 2004. Likewise, only 0.2 percent report that MDMA most contributed to violent crime in their areas in both years. Although NDTS data indicate that MDMA-related criminal acts have remained stable nationwide, law enforcement reporting indicates that crime related to MDMA distribution has increased in areas such as Florida and California as well as Dallas and Seattle because of the introduction of polydrug traffickers distributing MDMA.
The availability of MDMA has decreased significantly nationwide since peaking in 2001. According to seizure statistics and arrest data, MDMA availability was at its highest level in 2001 and has decreased since that time. Data from DEA's System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) also reveal a decrease in availability--the number of dosage units submitted for testing peaked at 5,472,435 dosage units in 2001 but has since decreased to 1,477,758 dosage units in 2003.17 Likewise, MDMA-related OCDETF investigations and indictments were at their highest level in 2001 and have decreased in each of the following years. MDMA-related arrests also decreased after peaking in 2001, dropping from 2,015 in 2001 to 1,124 in 2003.
NDIC Comment: The decrease in MDMA availability since 2001 likely is due to increasing interdiction efforts and the effective dismantling of large MDMA trafficking organizations. Law enforcement efforts have decreased or fractured MDMA trafficking networks through the arrests of key members. In the past 3 years, DEA has successfully dismantled several significant MDMA trafficking organizations--particularly Israeli and Asian organizations--that had distribution networks throughout the United States.
More adolescents perceive harm in using MDMA than ever before. MTF data show that the percentage of students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade perceiving harm in using MDMA increased in 2001--the most recent year for which such data are available. PATS 2003 data also show a rising percentage of teens that perceive risk in trying MDMA or using MDMA occasionally.
NDIC Comment: The perceived harm associated with MDMA use is increasing, most likely because of drug abuse prevention educational programs and antidrug campaigns that have focused on reducing MDMA abuse since the height of the drug's popularity in 2001. For example, in February 2002 the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched a national MDMA education campaign that consisted of television and print advertising, as well as a web site devoted to alerting and educating adolescents and young adults to the dangers of MDMA use. NSDUH 2002 data indicate that the rates of past year illicit drug use, including MDMA, were lower for youths who had seen or heard drug or alcohol prevention messages at school in the past year than for youths who had not seen or heard such messages at school.
Although most MDMA available in the United States is produced in Europe, the number of MDMA laboratories seized in the United States increased slightly in 2004. According to EPIC data, reported seizures of MDMA laboratories in the United States decreased from 2000 (8) to 2003 (3); however, law enforcement reports that 12 MDMA laboratories were seized within the first 8 months of 2004.
NDIC Comment: MDMA production in the United States is very limited in comparison with other countries but may be increasing in the wake of increased security and interdiction efforts at U.S. POEs. MDMA production in the United States is typically small-scale; however, a few laboratories have been capable of producing multithousand-tablet quantities of MDMA. For example, law enforcement reports that of the 12 MDMA laboratories seized in the first 8 months of 2004, 10 were capable of producing less than 8 ounces of MDMA (up to 2,000 tablets, but typically about 500), according to EPIC. However, one laboratory seized in New York was capable of producing 2 to 9 pounds (up to 40,000 tablets) of MDMA, and the largest laboratory, seized in Wisconsin, was capable of producing 10 to 20 pounds (up to 90,000 tablets) of MDMA.
The smuggling of MDMA coming directly from European source areas into the United States appears to have dropped dramatically in the past 3 years. EPIC reports that the number of MDMA dosage units seized arriving directly from the Netherlands and Belgium now represents a lower proportion of all MDMA tablets smuggled into the United States. EPIC data reveal that just 218,000 of 948,000 tablets and 70 of 152 kilograms of the seized MDMA that was destined for the United States in 2003 originated in the Netherlands or Belgium.
NDIC Comment: MDMA laboratories in the Netherlands and Belgium still produce most of the MDMA available in the United States; however, traffickers typically are not transporting the drug directly to the United States from these countries. While in recent years most MDMA was transported direct from source areas to the United States by couriers on commercial flights, increased interdiction efforts have caused a shift in transportation routes to avoid detection or seizure. For example, EPIC data for 2003 show that a significant amount of MDMA was transported on commercial flights originating in other European countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. In addition, MDMA shipments originating in the Netherlands and Belgium are increasingly transiting the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada en route to the United States.
Asian criminal groups are increasingly involved in MDMA trafficking in all regions of the United States, and they may surpass Israeli and Russian criminal groups as the dominant transporters and wholesale distributors of the drug in the near future. Asian criminal groups typically smuggle powder MDMA from Europe into Canada, where it is pressed into tablets. These groups then smuggle the MDMA tablets across the Northern Border, typically by private vehicle, supplying networks of Asian traffickers operating throughout the United States.
NDIC Comment: The involvement of Asian traffickers in MDMA transportation and distribution within the United States has been rising in recent years. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies report that Asian traffickers including Cambodian, Indo-Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese criminal groups are involved to varying degrees in MDMA distribution. However, Vietnamese and Chinese criminal groups appear to be most active in the smuggling of Europe-produced MDMA from Canada into the United States. According to law enforcement reporting, Asian traffickers distribute significant quantities of MDMA in cities including Houston, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.
The estimated quantity of MDMA available in the United States is unknown; data limitations concerning the extent of worldwide production, seizure amounts, and consumption levels preclude a precise calculation of the amount available to U.S. drug markets. However, law enforcement reporting and survey data indicate that MDMA availability appears to be stable to decreasing overall. Survey data and some law enforcement reporting show that MDMA availability was nearly unchanged in recent years. Other law enforcement reports of declining MDMA availability correspond with a nationwide decrease in the number of seizures and arrests since 2001.
MDMA is available to varying degrees in all regions of the country, and law enforcement reporting indicates that availability is relatively stable overall. Most DEA Field Divisions report that MDMA is readily available in their areas; however, five Field Divisions (Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, and St. Louis) report increasing availability. Nearly all HIDTA offices report widespread MDMA availability, and 11 of 21 report increasing availability.
NDTS data reveal that MDMA availability has decreased since 2002. NDTS data show that the percentage of state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide that report MDMA availability as high or moderate decreased from 54.4 percent in 2002, to 54.1 percent in 2003, and 41.3 percent in 2004. Consequently, data also indicate that the proportion of state and local law enforcement agencies reporting low MDMA availability in their areas increased from 37.1 percent in 2002, to 39.6 percent in 2003, and 47.1 percent in 2004. The percentage of law enforcement agencies reporting that MDMA is not available in their jurisdictions fluctuated from 6.9 percent in 2002, to 3.8 percent in 2003, and 9.0 percent in 2004. Regionally, a greater proportion of agencies in the Southwest (25.1%), Northeast (22.5%), and Southeast (20.2%) report high or moderate availability than those in the Midwest (17.6%), Pacific (16.6%), and West (13.7%) Regions.
Seizure data indicate that MDMA seizures have decreased each year since peaking in 2001. According to STRIDE, the number of dosage units submitted for testing increased from 3,342,397 dosage units of MDMA in 2000 to 5,472,435 dosage units in 2001, before decreasing to 3,568,087 dosage units in 2002 and 1,477,758 dosage units in 2003 (see Figure 38). FDSS data show a similar trend: federal seizures increased significantly from 280,178 dosage units in 2000 to 4,639,580 dosage units in 2001, then decreased to 3,501,252 dosage units in 2002 and 1,320,239 dosage units in 2003 (see Figure 39). Although the number of MDMA dosage units seized decreased in recent years, FDSS data reveal that seizures of kilogram quantities of powder MDMA increased substantially between 2001 and 2003. Kilogram-quantity seizures of powder MDMA decreased significantly from 96.8 kilograms in 2001 to 17.2 kilograms in 2002 but rose to a 3-year high of 242.3 kilograms in 2003. Most kilogram-quantity seizures of powder MDMA occurred in California (120.4 kg) and Arizona (74.5 kg) in 2003.
The number of DEA arrests for MDMA-related offenses rose between 2000 and 2001, before decreasing in 2002 and 2003 (see Figure 40). The decrease in arrests likely is due to a decline in the amount of MDMA available and abused in the United States and a shift by DEA to investigate fewer but higher-priority targets. The proportion of MDMA-related arrests to all DEA arrests for any major drug increased from 5.3 percent in 2000 to 8.2 percent in 2001, before declining to 6.9 percent in 2002 and 5.8 percent in 2003.
According to DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory, the average purity of the MDMA seized by DEA increased from 51.0 percent in 2002 to 57.9 percent in 2003. Most MDMA tablets submitted for testing between 1995 and March 2003 contained only MDMA; just a small percentage contained other controlled substances such as dextromethorphan (DXM), methamphetamine, and phencyclidine (PCP). However, diluents (cellulose and sugars), binders (starch), and lubricants (magnesium stearate) are commonly added to MDMA powder to facilitate tableting. MDMA tablets typically weigh 300 milligrams but can vary in size, weight, and purity.
DEA illicit drug price data indicate that the national average price of MDMA at the retail level decreased overall since 2001. The national range for MDMA was $20 to $40 per dosage unit in 2001 compared with $10 to $25 per dosage unit in 2003. This decline does not necessarily indicate an increased availability of MDMA since prices for the drug are often wide-ranging because of a number of variables including purity levels, quantities purchased, purchase frequencies, buyer-seller relationships, and transportation costs.
The demand for MDMA is relatively high, particularly among adolescents and young adults, but is decreasing. NSDUH data show that the estimated number of persons aged 12 or older reporting past year use of MDMA decreased significantly from nearly 3.2 million in 2002 to 2.1 million in 2003.
Predominant User Groups
The rate of MDMA use is highest among twelfth-grade high school students and individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, according to national drug prevalence data. According to NSDUH 2003 data, the rates of past year use for MDMA were higher among persons aged 18 to 25 (3.7%) than among those aged 12 to 17 (1.3%) or 26 or older (0.3%). MTF data also show higher rates among older adolescents and young adults. In 2003 rates of past year MDMA use were higher among twelfth graders (4.5%), college students (4.4%), and young adults (4.5%) than among eighth (2.1%) and tenth graders (3.0%).
The rates of past year MDMA use appear to be higher for males than females overall. According to NSDUH 2003 data, the rate of past year MDMA use was slightly higher among males (1.0%) than females (0.8%). However, MTF 2003 data show rates of past year use for MDMA were higher among females than males in lower grades but reversed for older adolescents and adults. Rates of use were higher for eighth (2.2%) and tenth grade females (3.2%) than eighth (1.8%) and tenth grade males (2.8%). Among twelfth graders rates were higher for males (4.8%) than females (4.0%). MTF data also show that rates of past year use for MDMA among adults (aged 19 to 30) were 4.7 percent among males and 3.5 percent among females.
Ethnic data for past year MDMA use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders vary by grade. MTF data show a higher rate of past year use among Hispanic students (4.0%) than among White (2.4%) or Black (1.0%) students in eighth grade. For tenth and twelfth graders, rates of past year use were highest among White students (4.6% and 6.4%, respectively), followed by Hispanics (3.4% and 5.3%) and Blacks (1.5% and 1.4%). NSDUH does not report ethnic data for MDMA.
Use of MDMA appears to be higher overall in less populated areas, particularly for the youngest users. MTF 2003 data indicate that past year use of MDMA is higher for eighth (2.7%) and tenth graders (3.8%) in Non-MSAs than in Large MSAs (1.8% and 2.4%, respectively). Among twelfth graders rates of use were similar in Non-MSAs (4.0%) and Large MSAs (4.3%). MTF data regarding adults, however, indicate that rates of use were higher in a Very Large City than in Farm/Country areas (5.4% compared with 2.1%).
Trends in Use
MDMA use among adults appears to be trending downward. MTF data indicate that MDMA use among college students (19 to 22) and young adults (19 to 28) peaked in 2001 and has since declined, although not significantly (see Figure 41). NSDUH data show that between 2002 and 2003, past year MDMA use decreased from 5.8 to 3.7 percent for young adults aged 18 to 25 and from 0.5 to 0.3 percent for adults aged 26 or older.
MDMA use among adolescents is decreasing. According to MTF data, past year MDMA use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders began to decline in 2002 after peaking in 2001 (see Figure 42). Rates of past year MDMA use for all grades decreased significantly in 2003 and continued to decline in 2004. NSDUH data also show significant decreases in past year MDMA use among adolescents. NSDUH data indicate that 1.3 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported past year MDMA use in 2003, compared with 2.2 percent in 2002.
Perceptions of Use
The proportion of adolescents that perceive MDMA use as harmful is increasing, but among adults the proportion is stable. MTF data indicate that the percentages of students in eighth and tenth grade reporting that they perceive great risk associated with using MDMA once or twice increased each year since 2001--the earliest year such data are available. The percentage of twelfth graders perceiving great risk in trying MDMA once or twice has increased each year since 1997 (see Figure 43). PATS data also show an increase in the perception of risk among adolescents. According to PATS data, a rising percentage of teens perceive great risk in trying MDMA (see Figure 44). However, long-range analysis of adult data show a different trend: MTF data reveal that the percentages of younger and older adults perceiving great risk associated with MDMA use fluctuated from 1992 to 2002 but remained relatively stable overall.
The proportion of adolescents that disapprove of MDMA use also has increased overall for each surveyed age group since 2001 (see Figure 45).
Trends in Consequences of Use
The consequences of MDMA use also have decreased since peaking in 2001. DAWN data indicate that the estimated number of ED mentions for MDMA decreased sharply from 2001 to 2002 to the lowest number recorded in the past 3 years (see Figure 46). Of the estimated 4,026 MDMA-related ED mentions in 2002, most were attributed to young adults aged 18 to 25 (2,294), followed by users aged 6 to 17 (731), 26 to 34 (680), and 35 or older (315).
Most MDMA available in the United States is produced in northwestern Europe, particularly in the Netherlands and Belgium; however, limited amounts of MDMA produced in Asia, Canada, Central America, Mexico, and South America also are available in U.S. markets. MDMA production within the United States is limited but appears to be increasing. The quantity of MDMA produced in source areas is unknown; data concerning laboratory capacity and seizures are either limited or unavailable.
The Netherlands remains the most significant source of MDMA available in the United States. Typically, more MDMA laboratories are seized in the Netherlands than in any other European country. According to the Netherlands Unit Synthetic Drugs (USD), law enforcement authorities seized 34 synthetic drug (including MDMA) laboratories in the Netherlands in 2000 and 35 in 2001. Eighteen MDMA-only laboratories were seized in the Netherlands in 2002. Dutch MDMA laboratory operators often operate large laboratories capable of producing 20 to 30 kilograms (200,000 to 300,000 dosage units) of MDMA per production cycle. According to the Knowledge and Expertise Center of the Unit Southern Netherlands of the National Crime Squad, 5.4 million MDMA tablets and 311 kilograms of powder MDMA were seized in the Netherlands in 2003.
Belgium also is a significant source of MDMA available in the United States, and production within the country may be increasing. MDMA laboratories traditionally have been established in northeastern Belgium but are now reportedly operating in other parts of the country. The DEA Brussels Country Office reports that law enforcement authorities seized 10 synthetic drug (including MDMA) laboratories in 2000, 6 in 2001, 7 in 2002, and 6 in 2003. Most of the MDMA laboratories seized in Belgium in 2003 were located along the country's northern border with the Netherlands. Laboratories located in Belgium are capable of producing multikilogram quantities of MDMA each production cycle. Belgian and Dutch MDMA laboratory operators are predominant in Belgium; however, Asian criminal groups also may be producing the drug in the country.
MDMA also is produced in Poland and Germany, but only a limited quantity is smuggled into the United States. There has been a dramatic increase in production in Poland in the past few years, and some European law enforcement agencies estimate that Poland-produced MDMA now accounts for a significant share of the MDMA market in northern and Eastern Europe; however, the quality generally is very low. MDMA production in Germany is limited. The Dutch USD reports that law enforcement authorities seized 13 synthetic drug (including MDMA) laboratories in Poland and 4 in Germany in 2002; seizure statistics for these countries regarding MDMA-only laboratories are not available.
According to DEA, MDMA is increasingly produced in Southeast Asia, particularly in China and Indonesia, but as yet only limited amounts of Southeast Asia-produced MDMA are smuggled into the United States. There are no generally accepted estimates as to the amount produced or the number of laboratories operating in Southeast Asian countries.
The amount of MDMA produced in Mexico, Central America, and South America that is smuggled into the United States also appears to be limited. MDMA laboratories have been seized in recent years in Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Suriname. According to DEA, criminal groups in Mexico and Colombia may be establishing high capacity MDMA laboratories to produce MDMA for distribution in the United States.
Limited quantities of MDMA are produced in Canada; however, production appears to be increasing. Most MDMA laboratories are located in the provinces of Ontario, Québec, and British Columbia. According to the RCMP, the number of laboratories seized in Canada increased from 6 in 2000, to 8 in 2001, and 11 in 2002. In 2003 Canadian officials seized three large-scale, operational MDMA tableting sites in the Toronto metropolitan area. According to law enforcement reporting, Asian criminal groups have become significant producers of MDMA in Canada, particularly in eastern provinces.
MDMA production within the United States is limited but appears to be increasing. NCLSS data indicate that MDMA laboratories have been seized in states throughout the country (see Figure 47). However, laboratory seizures decreased between 2000 and 2003 but increased in 2004. Law enforcement agencies seized 8 MDMA laboratories in 2000, 11 in 2001, 9 in 2002, and 3 in 2003. As of August 16, law enforcement authorities had seized 12 MDMA laboratories in 2004. MDMA laboratories operating in the United States typically are capable of producing gram quantities during each production cycle, although a few reportedly have produced kilogram quantities.
MDMA is transported to the United States by various methods directly from northwestern Europe or via transit countries. Drug traffickers transport MDMA to the United States primarily via couriers on commercial flights; however, mail and express mail services, air cargo, and maritime vessels also are used to transport MDMA. Some MDMA shipments transit other countries, particularly Canada, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, en route to the United States. MDMA is then transported to primary POEs in the United States, which include Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Private vehicles are the primary method of transportation from POEs to secondary market areas across the United States.
The quantity of MDMA smuggled into the United States from foreign source areas appears to be decreasing overall. According to EPIC Arrival Zone seizure data, the number of MDMA dosage units seized arriving from foreign source or transit countries decreased significantly for the third consecutive year, dropping from 6,699,882 dosage units in 2001, to 3,771,449 dosage units in 2002, and 948,438 dosage units in 2003. Kilogram-quantity shipments of MDMA destined for the United States appear to have fluctuated in recent years; law enforcement authorities seized 47 kilograms of MDMA in 2001, 360 kilograms in 2002, and 147 kilograms in 2003.
Nationwide seizures from commercial flights decreased during 2003; however, it still appears that MDMA is smuggled into the United States most often through airports located on the East Coast. Most MDMA was smuggled into the United States through international airports in New York, Florida, and New Jersey in 2003. The majority of MDMA seized from commercial flights during 2003 occurred at New York's JFK International Airport and the Miami International Airport, according to EPIC Commercial Air Activity reporting. A significant but lesser amount was seized at Newark Liberty International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, and Atlanta International Airport. Nationwide seizures of MDMA from commercial flights appear to have declined, particularly since midyear 2003.
Couriers on commercial flights conceal MDMA through a variety of methods; the size of MDMA tablets allows for much easier concealment than most other major drugs of abuse. Couriers typically conceal the drug in their luggage, inside their clothing, or taped to their bodies. Some couriers also swallow latex pellets, typically swallowing between 17 and 130 pellets that contain 40 to 50 MDMA tablets each. Couriers have concealed 2.5 to 5 kilograms of MDMA on their bodies and up to 10 kilograms in specially designed luggage.
MDMA is commonly smuggled into the United States via mail parcel or air cargo. However, EPIC data indicate that MDMA shipped to the country via these methods decreased significantly between 2002 and 2003. U.S. Postal Inspection Service Prohibited Mailing data also reveal a decrease in MDMA seizures from 45,826 dosage units in 2002 to 13,519 dosage units in 2003. In 2003 the U.S. Postal Inspection Service New Jersey/Caribbean Division reported the highest quantity seized, followed by the Los Angeles and Seattle Divisions. Conversely, gram-quantity seizures of MDMA by U.S. postal inspectors more than doubled from 1,342 grams in 2002 to 3,268 grams in 2003. Most such seizures occurred in the St. Louis Division, followed by the Los Angeles Division.
The quantity of MDMA transported on maritime vessels is limited but appears to be increasing slightly. According to EPIC data, 76,725 dosage units were seized from commercial maritime vessels in two separate incidents in Florida in 2003. These data represent an increase from approximately 61,800 tablets seized in two separate incidents in 2002 from commercial and private maritime vessels. No seizures of kilogram-quantity MDMA from maritime vessels were reported in 2002 or 2003.
MDMA most commonly is transported from European source and transit countries to the United States by Israeli and Russian organized criminal groups. However, federal, state, and local law enforcement reporting shows that other groups including Asian, Colombian, and Dominican criminal groups also transport significant quantities of MDMA from Europe to the United States. If not shipped directly from source countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, MDMA frequently transits other European countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain before being transported to the United States. MDMA traffickers primarily use couriers on commercial flights and mail services to smuggle the drug into the United States, although MDMA also is smuggled into the United States concealed in airfreight and maritime vessel cargo shipments.
Europe-produced MDMA continues to be transported through Canada en route to the United States. Israeli, Russian and, increasingly, Asian criminal groups transport MDMA from Europe to Canada primarily through Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal via couriers on commercial flights, although large quantities are commonly transported via air cargo. These criminal groups, as well as some independent dealers and OMGs, transport MDMA from Canada into the United States primarily by private and commercial vehicles but also by couriers aboard private and commercial flights, mail and express mail services, maritime vessels, and couriers on foot. According to EPIC data, the quantity of MDMA seized en route to the United States from Canada remained relatively stable between 2002 (138,718 dosage units and 5.8 kilograms) and 2003 (133,449 dosage units and 5.1 kilograms). Shipments of MDMA transported from Canada to the United States appear to commonly consist of 40,000 to 50,000 tablets. RCMP reporting indicates that traffickers are increasingly smuggling MDMA from Canada into the northwestern United States, particularly across the British Columbia-Washington border.
Mexico is also a transit country for MDMA, although on a lesser scale. MDMA typically is transported to Mexico from Europe via commercial flights and air cargo as well as by mail services to locations such as Cancún, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, where much of the MDMA is consumed at local resort areas, although some is further transported to the United States. According to EPIC data, the quantity of MDMA seized on the Southwest Border decreased from 75,383 dosage units in 2002 to 17,234 dosage units in 2003. In 2003 the majority of MDMA seized along the Southwest Border was seized in West Texas, while a significant but lesser amount was seized in South Texas. No MDMA seizures were reported in California or Arizona in 2003. MDMA transiting Mexico generally is destined for locations in California and Texas and, to a lesser extent, to Miami, Las Vegas, and New York. Primarily Mexican criminal groups, but also Israeli and Dominican criminal groups, smuggle MDMA over the Southwest Border into the United States by private vehicle, couriers on foot, commercial aircraft, and express mail services.
Traffickers also transport MDMA destined for the United States from Europe through some Caribbean and South American transit countries. Shipments of MDMA have increasingly been transported on commercial flights through the Dominican Republic in particular as well as Aruba, the Bahamas, Curaçao, Guadeloupe, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, and Suriname. The MDMA is then transported from these transit countries to the United States via commercial maritime vessels or commercial flights.
Most MDMA smuggled into the United States is transported directly to Primary Market Areas--Los Angeles, Miami, and New York--by couriers on commercial flights. A significant yet lesser amount is transported by private and commercial vehicles across the Northern and Southwest Borders to the three MDMA Primary Market Areas.
MDMA available in Los Angeles is transported to the area by couriers on commercial flights, by express mail services, and by private vehicles. Law enforcement reports to EPIC that approximately 33,000 MDMA tablets and 10 kilograms of MDMA were seized in 2003 from commercial flights, all of which originated in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2002 approximately 45,000 MDMA tablets and 14 kilograms of MDMA were reportedly seized from commercial flights. Law enforcement reporting indicates that MDMA is increasingly transported to Los Angeles from Canada, likely by private vehicles. And, although reported MDMA seizure incidents on the Southwest Border were limited in 2002 and 2003, DEA reports that MDMA from Europe is increasingly transported to the Los Angeles area via Mexico and the Southwest Border. Couriers transport MDMA across the Southwest Border to Los Angeles primarily by private vehicle.
Most of the MDMA available in Miami is transported directly from European source or transit countries (primarily Western Europe) by couriers on commercial flights, express mail services and, to a lesser extent, on commercial vessels. MDMA shipments on commercial flights appear to have decreased significantly, however, as seizures dropped from 519,264 tablets and 82 kilograms of MDMA in 2002 to 68,333 tablets and 64 kilograms in 2003. These shipments originated primarily in the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain; a significant but lesser amount was transported to Miami from the Dominican Republic. EPIC reports that in 2003 a shipment of approximately 12,000 MDMA tablets was seized from a commercial vessel destined for Miami from the Dominican Republic.
MDMA usually is smuggled into New York City through JFK and Newark Liberty International Airports from Europe by couriers who conceal MDMA in false-bottomed luggage or on their persons. MDMA also is transported to New York via express mail services, air cargo, and maritime vessels. EPIC data indicate that law enforcement authorities at JFK and Newark Liberty reported the seizure of approximately 2,800,000 MDMA tablets and 110 kilograms of MDMA in 2002 and 2003--most of which was transported from Europe, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. Of this 2-year total, approximately 300,000 MDMA tablets and 19 kilograms of MDMA were seized in 2003 alone, representing a major decrease in seizure amounts from the previous year. Law enforcement authorities also report that MDMA produced in or transiting Canada is smuggled into New York City by private and commercial vehicles. In addition, limited quantities of MDMA destined for New York City are sometimes seized from commercial maritime vessels; approximately 1 kilogram of MDMA was seized from commercial maritime vessels in 2002.
Every DEA Field Division and HIDTA office reports that MDMA is distributed in its area, and MDMA distribution appears to be relatively stable. Law enforcement reporting does indicate, however, that distribution of the drug appears to be expanding beyond established venues. MDMA traditionally has been available in metropolitan areas, at beach resort areas, and on college campuses, where it is distributed at raves, dance clubs, and bars; however, MDMA is now being distributed at other venues as well, including high schools and private residences.
MDMA wholesale distributors typically purchase MDMA in 10,000-tablet lots from producers and then transport the drug to the United States, where they sell lots of 1,000 tablets to midlevel distributors for $4 to $20 per tablet. Midlevel distributors in turn sell quantities of 100 to 1,000 tablets to retail distributors, typically for $5 to $30 per tablet. Retail distributors then sell personal use quantities to MDMA users for $6 to $50 per tablet. Most MDMA distributors--many of which are middle- to upper-class young adults--sell only MDMA; however, law enforcement agencies increasingly report that distributors of other drugs such as cocaine, crack, and marijuana are now also selling MDMA.
Israeli and Russian criminal groups appear to control most wholesale MDMA distribution throughout the country; however, Asian criminal groups are increasingly involved in wholesale MDMA distribution. Law enforcement reports that Asian criminal groups distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA in every region of the country in such states as Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Colombian, Dominican, Middle Eastern, and traditional organized crime groups also distribute MDMA at the wholesale level. Colombian and Dominican criminal groups appear to be most active in eastern states, particularly in Florida and New York. Reporting regarding the extent to which Middle Eastern and traditional organized criminal groups are involved in wholesale MDMA distribution is limited; however, law enforcement reporting indicates that Middle Eastern criminal groups distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA in Michigan, and traditional organized crime groups distribute the drug in New York.
Many of the same groups that distribute MDMA at the wholesale level also are responsible for midlevel distribution; however, African American criminal groups and Mexican DTOs also distribute midlevel quantities of the drug. Law enforcement reporting indicates that African American criminal groups have been identified as midlevel MDMA distributors in Maryland, while Mexican DTOs are reportedly involved in the midlevel distribution of MDMA in various states including Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. In addition, law enforcement reporting indicates that Mexican DTO involvement in midlevel distribution in California may be increasing.
Caucasian males primarily between the ages of 18 and 30 are the dominant retail-level distributors across the country, according to law enforcement reporting. Caucasian retail MDMA distributors typically are local independent dealers; however, Caucasian criminal groups--including street gangs, OMGs, and prison gangs--also are involved in MDMA distribution.
Street gangs, especially African American, Asian, and Hispanic street gangs, are involved in MDMA distribution at the retail level. According to NDTS data, the percentage of state and local agencies reporting street gang involvement in MDMA distribution remained stable between 2003 (33.7%) and 2004 (33.8%). Of those agencies reporting that street gangs distribute MDMA in their jurisdictions, 25.4 percent report low involvement and 8.4 percent report high or moderate involvement in 2004. Hispanic street gangs distribute MDMA at the retail level in such states as Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia. Law enforcement reporting indicates that African American and Asian street gangs are increasingly distributing retail quantities of MDMA in several states. African American street gangs reportedly distribute retail quantities of the drug in Atlanta, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., while Asian street gangs distribute MDMA in states including California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington.
OMGs and prison gangs are involved in retail MDMA distribution, although to a lesser extent than Caucasian independent dealers and street gangs. NDTS data reveal that OMG involvement in MDMA distribution also remained stable between 2003 (20.6%) and 2004 (20.4%). Low OMG involvement was reported by 17.3 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies, while 3.1 percent reported high or moderate involvement in 2004. Law enforcement reporting indicates that OMGs distribute retail quantities of MDMA in several states in the Northeast, Pacific, and Southwest Regions. White supremacist prison gangs reportedly distribute retail quantities of MDMA in the Southwest Region of the country.
Primary Market Areas
Los Angeles, Miami, and New York are Primary Market Areas for MDMA based on reporting from public health and law enforcement agencies. These metropolitan areas are Primary Market Areas for MDMA because of a high level of demand for the drug in these areas and the large amounts of MDMA distributed from these areas to other markets across the country. There appears to be a relatively high demand for MDMA in Philadelphia based on data that gauge MDMA-related consequences in that city; however, distribution from Philadelphia to other U.S. drug markets is limited.
Los Angeles. The demand for MDMA in Los Angeles appears to be relatively high and stable. DAWN data indicate that MDMA-related ED mentions in Los Angeles increased from 1998 to 2000, when MDMA was gaining popularity in many areas of the country, but have since remained relatively stable (see Figure 48). The estimated number of ED mentions for MDMA in Los Angeles was second only to Philadelphia among DAWN reporting cities in 2002. The estimated rate of ED mentions per 100,000 population in Los Angeles (2) has held steady since 2000.
Israeli and Russian DTOs and criminal groups are responsible for most of the transportation and wholesale distribution of MDMA in Los Angeles. Asian criminal groups also supply significant quantities of the drug to the area; law enforcement reporting indicates that Asian groups, made up of primarily Vietnamese and Chinese criminals--increasingly supply Los Angeles with wholesale quantities of MDMA from Canada. Asian and Caucasian independent dealers are the primary retail-level distributors in Los Angeles; however, various criminal groups and independent dealers also distribute the drug. In addition, other polydrug traffickers are becoming involved with MDMA distribution in Los Angeles. Most retail-level MDMA distribution in Los Angeles is expanding beyond the common venues of raves and nightclubs into schools, malls, and private residences.
EPIC Pipeline, Convoy, and Jetway drug seizure data, combined with law enforcement reporting, indicate that Los Angeles is a primary distribution center for MDMA in the United States. Combined EPIC data for 2002 and 2003 show that law enforcement reported just 10 MDMA seizure events on domestic highways and at airports in which the Los Angeles area was identified as the place of origin. These data indicate that MDMA was most often transported from Los Angeles to the Midwest and West Regions to such cities as Indianapolis, Des Moines (IA), Kansas City (KS), Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City. However, law enforcement reporting indicates that sources in Los Angeles supply MDMA to states across the country including Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Nevada.
Miami. The demand for MDMA in Miami remains high, but appears to be declining. Much like Los Angeles, the estimated number of ED mentions for Miami increased from 1998 to 2001 before decreasing significantly in 2002 (see Figure 49). Among all DAWN reporting cities, Miami ranked fourth in total ED mentions for MDMA behind Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York.
Russian, Israeli, and European DTOs (primarily Polish) as well as Caribbean (primarily Dominican) and Colombian DTOs and Caucasian criminal groups distribute MDMA at the wholesale level in Miami. Dominican and Colombian criminal groups in Miami are involved in not only wholesale but also midlevel distribution of MDMA. Local independent Hispanic and Caucasian dealers, as well as various criminal groups, sell retail quantities of MDMA in Miami; however, no particular group appears to dominate retail MDMA distribution. Law enforcement reporting indicates that Hispanic dealers and African American street gangs sometimes distribute retail quantities of MDMA in the Miami area. Retail quantities of MDMA typically are distributed in Miami at raves, dance clubs, college campuses, high schools, and, increasingly, private parties.
Seizure data and law enforcement reporting indicate that MDMA is distributed from Miami to secondary markets typically in the eastern half of the country. Combined EPIC data for 2002 and 2003 indicate that law enforcement authorities seized multihundred- to multithousand-tablet MDMA shipments that originated in Miami. These shipments were seized on domestic highways and at airports and primarily were destined for cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast Regions in cities such as New York, Newark, Lynchburg (VA), and Davenport (IA). In addition, law enforcement reporting indicates that Miami supplies states including Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
New York. Demand for MDMA in New York City has decreased significantly in recent years. According to DAWN data, the estimated number of ED mentions in New York City increased significantly from 1998 to 2000 but decreased in the following 2 years (see Figure 50). New York City ranked third among all DAWN reporting cities in ED mentions in 2002.
Israeli and Russian DTOs dominate the transportation and wholesale distribution of MDMA in New York City. To a lesser extent, Colombian and Dominican DTOs and criminal groups, Eastern European and Asian criminal groups, OMGs, and members of traditional organized crime distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA. Independent dealers and a variety of criminal groups, including Dominican and African American criminal groups, commonly distribute MDMA at the midlevel and retail level. In addition, DEA reports that many established heroin and cocaine trafficking organizations have entered the MDMA market because of the high profit margin. While wholesale-level transactions typically occur in residences in New York, MDMA frequently is distributed at the retail level at nightclubs or raves.
New York is a leading distribution center for MDMA and supplies markets across the country, including Los Angeles and Miami. Combined EPIC data for 2002 and 2003 show that law enforcement reported seven MDMA seizure events on domestic highways, railways, and at airports in which New York was identified as the city of origin. EPIC data show that MDMA shipments originating in New York City were seized in Van Nuys and Oakland (CA), Cleveland, Houston, and Appleton (WI) in 2002 and 2003. In addition, law enforcement reporting indicates that MDMA distributed from New York supplies markets in every region of the country including states such as Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio.
Since the height of MDMA's popularity in 2001, national prevalence studies and consequence data indicate steadily declining demand for MDMA among all age groups. Demand data further indicate, however, that the perception of risk associated with MDMA use is increasing only among adolescents, suggesting that while MDMA use might continue to decline among adolescents, it may remain at higher levels for adults. Young adults--particularly those aged 18 to 25--will continue to be the primary users of the drug.
The transportation of MDMA across the Northern Border may increase in the near future given an apparent shift in major transportation routes and increasing MDMA production (including tableting sites) in Canada since the late 1990s. In the past MDMA was commonly transported directly from European source countries to the United States. But data indicate recent increases in MDMA shipments transiting other countries--particularly Canada--and decreases in MDMA shipments transported direct from European source countries. For example, RCMP reports that the amount of MDMA seized at Canadian POEs increased dramatically from several thousand dosage units in the late 1990s, to approximately 2 million dosage units annually from 2000 to 2002, to 5.8 million dosage units in 2003. RCMP attributes this dramatic increase to the smuggling of large shipments of powder MDMA from Western Europe to Canada, where the powder is intended for tableting.
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