National Drug Intelligence Center
National Drug Threat Assessment 2006
Cocaine, powder and crack, is typically available in urban, suburban, and rural drug markets throughout the United States. Cocaine supplies appear to be stable at levels necessary to meet current domestic demand, despite record levels of seizures and declines in estimated worldwide production that have been reported over the past few years. This stability in supply could be the result of overproduction through 2002 or a time lag between coca cultivation and cocaine distribution. Time lags in reporting drug availability data also may account for apparent stability in cocaine availability in spite of decreased production and increased seizures.
Cocaine is widely available throughout most of the nation2, and cocaine supplies are relatively stable at levels sufficient to meet current user demand. Cocaine availability indicators have been mixed since 2000--wholesale purity has increased, wholesale prices are relatively stable, and arrests have fluctuated--and do not clearly indicate either an increase or decrease in wholesale availability of the drug (see Appendix B, Tables 4 and 6). However, cocaine availability may be decreasing at the retail level. Preliminary analysis of 2005 data conducted by ONDCP suggests that a rise in retail-level cocaine prices and a decrease in retail-level cocaine purity may have occurred during the period of February through September 2005, indicating a potential decrease in the availability of cocaine at the retail level in domestic drug markets. Further, according to ONDCP, the potential decrease at the retail level occurred during a period when reduced worldwide cocaine production and increased cocaine interdiction should have begun depleting domestic supplies.
This potential decrease in retail-level cocaine availability is generally not reflected in law enforcement reporting through the first half of 2005; such reporting typically places retail-level cocaine availability at stable levels. For instance, of 314 interviews regarding cocaine availability conducted by National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) representatives with law enforcement officials nationwide from November 2004 through April 2005, eight officials report a recent decrease in cocaine availability, while 40 report an increase. This anecdotal reporting is similar to National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2005 data showing that the percentage of state and local law enforcement agencies reporting high or moderate availability of cocaine in their area has not changed appreciably from 2003 through 2005. However, if the decreasing trend in retail-level availability noted by ONDCP continues, such decreases should begin to appear in law enforcement reporting in early 2006.
Estimating Andean coca cultivation is an inherently difficult process, especially estimating rates of replanting in Colombia. As a result, estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production are currently under review by the counterdrug community to determine their level of precision.
Using the best data available at present, the Crime and Narcotics
Center (CNC) estimated that potential worldwide cocaine production
decreased for the third consecutive year to 645 metric tons of pure
cocaine in 2004 (see Table 1), or 780 metric tons
of export quality (84% pure) cocaine. Approximately two-thirds of the
cocaine was produced from coca cultivated in Colombia, which dominates
worldwide coca cultivation and cocaine production; the remainder was
produced from coca cultivated in Bolivia and Peru.
Worldwide production declined, largely because coca eradication in South America continued to reduce the number of mature coca fields in the Andes. A number of new coca fields replaced those eradicated during 2004, leaving the total land area under coca cultivation in Colombia virtually unchanged; however, the newer fields are less productive, resulting in an overall net decline in average potential cocaine production. Coca cultivation in Bolivia increased in 2004; however, such increases were offset by decreases in estimated land under cultivation in Peru.
Most cocaine is transported from South America, particularly Colombia,
through the Mexico--Central America Corridor via Eastern Pacific and
Western Caribbean Vectors (see Appendix A, Map
5). According to the Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement
(IACM), approximately 90 percent of the cocaine transported toward the
United States in 2004 transited either the Eastern Pacific (primarily
smuggled on fishing vessels) or Western Caribbean (primarily smuggled on
go-fast boats) Vectors. IACM data further indicate significant increases
in cocaine interdiction (either lost by or seized from transporters) in
these vectors from 2002 through 2004--the result of sustained successful
interdiction initiatives. In fact, sharply increased interdiction in the
Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean Vectors accounts for most of the 42
percent (138 mt to 196 mt) overall increase in transit zone interdiction
during that period (see Table 2). Moreover,
preliminary data indicate that interdiction reached a new record level in
Despite sharp increases in cocaine interdiction in recent years, determination as to whether or not the amount of cocaine transported to (and available in) the United States is increasing or decreasing remains uncertain. Current data are insufficient to render an accurate estimate of the amount of cocaine departing South America toward the United States each year. According to the IACM, however, the quantity of pure cocaine transported toward the United States was most likely within a range of 325 to 675 metric tons in 2004, the only year for which data are available (see Table 3). Although the amount of cocaine transported toward the United States may be decreasing (based on decreases in estimated worldwide cocaine production), this assertion is not certain. The IACM published range estimates in 2004 because of growing incongruence among counterdrug data sets. As such, a valid comparison between 2004 data and previous years' point estimates is not possible.
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control most wholesale cocaine distribution in the United States, and their control is increasing. According to federal, state, and local law enforcement reporting, Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the predominant wholesale cocaine distributors in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central Regions, and although Colombian and Dominican criminal groups control most wholesale distribution in the Northeast and Florida/Caribbean Regions, wholesale distribution by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups is increasing. For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Field Division reported in 2005 that in some areas of New York City Mexican criminal groups have supplanted Colombian criminal groups as the primary source of multikilogram-quantities of cocaine. Similarly, the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) recently reported that in some areas of central Florida, Mexican DTOs and criminal groups have supplanted Colombian and Dominican criminal groups as the predominant wholesale cocaine distributors and are establishing new distribution networks.
Control over wholesale cocaine distribution by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups has been increasing for several years and is likely to continue to increase in the near term. Cocaine transportation data indicate that most cocaine available in U.S. drug markets is smuggled into the country via the U.S.-Mexico border. As Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control an increasing percentage of the cocaine smuggled into the country, their influence over wholesale distribution will rise even in areas previously controlled by other groups, including areas of the Northeast and Florida/Caribbean Regions.
Cocaine is distributed in nearly every large and midsize city; however, analysis of cocaine seizure data indicates that several specific cities serve as national-level cocaine distribution centers through which most domestic cocaine flows (see Appendix A, Map 6). Midlevel and retail-level distribution of the drug in these and most other cities is controlled primarily by organized gangs; however, in smaller cities and rural communities retail distribution typically is controlled by local independent dealers.
Rates of past year use for cocaine are relatively high, and overall, use appears to be stable. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the rate of past year use for cocaine (powder and crack combined) among individuals aged 12 and older (2.4%) has remained stable since 2002; it is much lower than that for marijuana (10.6%), but is higher than that for methamphetamine (0.6%) or heroin (0.2%). Among adults, NSDUH data show that rates of past year use for cocaine (powder and crack combined) among young adults (aged 18 to 25) are stable but remain the highest among all age groups (see Appendix B, Table 1). Monitoring the Future (MTF) and NSDUH also indicate stable rates of adolescent cocaine use (see Appendix B, Table 2). The number of treatment admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities for cocaine has decreased since the mid-1990s despite increased access to drug treatment. Cocaine is the only major drug of abuse for which treatment admissions have decreased (see Appendix C, Chart 1).
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