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National Drug Threat Assessment 2006
January 2006

Scope and Methodology

The National Drug Threat Assessment 2006 is a comprehensive assessment of the threat posed to the United States by the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs. It was prepared through detailed analysis of the most recent law enforcement, intelligence, and public health data available to counterdrug agencies through the date of publication. However, considerable time lags in some counterdrug reporting occasioned by competing operational priorities, manpower limitations, insufficient collection capabilities, and proprietary concerns impeded timely reporting of some data, hindering predictive analysis. To overcome such data deficiencies, recent law enforcement and intelligence community reporting was extensively incorporated into the report. 

The National Drug Threat Assessment 2006 includes information provided by more than 3,400 state and local law enforcement agencies through the National Drug Intelligence Center's National Drug Threat Survey 2005. State and local law enforcement agencies also provided information through personal interviews with National Drug Intelligence Center Field Program Specialists, a nationwide network of law enforcement professionals assembled by NDIC to promote information sharing among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. 

This report addresses the trafficking and use of primary substances of abuse as well as the laundering of proceeds generated through illicit drug sales. It also addresses the role played by drug trafficking organizations and organized gangs in domestic drug trafficking. Major substances of abuse are discussed in terms of their availability, production and cultivation, transportation, distribution, and demand. Principal distribution centers for each major drug of abuse are also identified and addressed in the report. 

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Availability. To evaluate the availability of illicit drugs, analysts considered quantitative information on seizures, arrests, law enforcement surveys, laboratory analyses, drug purity or potency, and price. Qualitative data, such as the subjective views of individual agencies on availability, also were considered. 

Production and Cultivation. Accurately estimating production and cultivation is a continuing challenge for the counterdrug community. In their evaluation of illicit drug production and cultivation, NDIC analysts considered accepted interagency estimates. Qualitative information pertaining to the presence and level of domestic and foreign activity, general trends in production or cultivation levels, involvement of organized criminal groups, toxicity and other related safety hazards, environmental effects, and associated criminal activity were also considered. 

Transportation. To evaluate illicit drug transportation, analysts evaluated interagency estimates of the amounts of specific drugs destined for U.S. markets, involvement of organized criminal groups, smuggling and transportation methods, and indicators of changes in smuggling and transportation methods. 

Distribution. The evaluation of illicit drug distribution was mostly qualitative. Analysts considered the extent to which specific drugs are distributed nationally, regionally, and in principal distribution centers based on law enforcement reporting. Also considered were qualitative data pertaining to the involvement of organized criminal groups, including their involvement in wholesale, midlevel, and retail distribution.1 

Demand. The evaluation of the domestic demand for illicit drugs was based on accepted interagency estimates and data captured in national substance abuse indicators. Quantitative and qualitative information that was evaluated included the estimated number of total users, prevalence of drug use among various age groups, and admissions to treatment facilities. The differing methodologies applied by national substance abuse indicators, as well as their inherent limitations, were considered and addressed in assessing domestic drug demand. National Drug Threat Survey data used in this report do not imply that there is only one drug threat per state or region or that only one drug is available per state or region. A percentage given for a state or region represents the proportion of state and local law enforcement agencies in that state or region that identified a particular drug as their greatest threat or as available at low, moderate, or high levels. This assessment breaks the country into seven regions as shown in Appendix A, Map 1. For representation of survey data by regions, see Appendix A, Map 2 and Map 4.

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End Note

1. In this assessment, wholesale distribution refers to the level at which drugs are purchased directly from a source of supply and sold, typically to midlevel distributors, in pound-, kilogram-, or multiunit-quantities. Midlevel distribution refers to the level at which drugs are purchased directly from wholesalers in pound-, kilogram-, or multiunit-quantities and sold in smaller quantities to other midlevel distributors or to retail distributors. Retail distribution refers to the level at which drugs are sold directly to users.

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