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Drug Threat Overview

Cannabis cultivation and marijuana distribution and abuse pose the greatest drug threats to the Appalachia HIDTA region as evidenced by the large amount of cannabis cultivated in the region, the level of violence associated with cannabis cultivation, and the number of marijuana-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in the region. Marijuana is widely available throughout the HIDTA region and is abused by members of all racial/ethnic and social groups. Caucasian DTOs, criminal groups, and independent growers are the primary producers and distributors of locally produced marijuana. However, law enforcement officials in Tennessee report that Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are becoming increasingly involved in cannabis cultivation within the state. Most of the marijuana produced by smaller Caucasian criminal groups and independent growers in the region is abused within the region, while most of the marijuana produced by large Caucasian DTOs is transported to markets outside the area, including to drug markets in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Additionally, large quantities of Mexican marijuana are available in the region. Mexican marijuana frequently supplements supplies of locally produced marijuana, particularly during periods of decreased local cultivation, which most recently occurred in 2007. Moreover, reporting from Appalachia HIDTA Initiatives6 indicates that approximately 2,083 kilograms of commercial-grade marijuana and 1,150 kilograms of hydroponic marijuana were seized by officials in 2007. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Appalachia HIDTA Initiative Seizures, by Drug, in Kilograms, 2007

HIDTA Initiative Powder Cocaine Crack Cocaine Ice Metham-
Powder Metham-
Grade Marijuana
Hydroponic Marijuana Heroin Oxycodone (Dosage Units) Hydrocodone (Dosage Units)
Kentucky 2.20 1.24 1.63 0.18 648.27 910.04 0.02 11,331 14,282
Tennessee 197.82 2.52 7.41 4.27 1,265.00 2.27 4.00 1,069 1,475
West Virginia 9.66 2.52 0.00 0.39 169.82 237.79 0.04 5,945 3,458
Total 209.68 6.28 9.04 4.84 2,083.09 1,150.10 4.06 18,345 19,215

Source: Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Performance Management Process Database, run date January 30, 2008.
Note: The Performance Management Process Database is used by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to assess the performance of regional HIDTAs.

The distribution and abuse of diverted pharmaceutical drugs and cocaine pose significant threats to the HIDTA region. The most widely available and commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs are prescription narcotics such as Vicodin and Lortab (hydrocodone products), methadone, and OxyContin (oxycodone). Central nervous system (CNS) depressants including Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam)--both benzodiazepines--are also commonly abused. Caucasian adolescents and adults are the primary abusers of diverted pharmaceuticals. They are drawn to the drugs, in part, by the ease with which they can obtain them over the Internet and from retail-level distributors. Powder cocaine is available to varying degrees throughout the HIDTA region; most is converted to crack cocaine at or near distribution sites.

Methamphetamine is a serious threat, while heroin and other dangerous drugs (ODDs) pose a low threat to the Appalachia HIDTA region. Local powder methamphetamine production decreased throughout the HIDTA region, largely the result of state restrictions on the purchase of precursor chemicals. Even so, small, unsophisticated clandestine laboratories remain a concern. Caucasian DTOs and criminal groups produce most powder methamphetamine available in the region. Locally produced methamphetamine accounts for most of the methamphetamine available in the Appalachia HIDTA region. Nonetheless, Mexican DTOs and criminal groups supply the region with significant quantities of Mexican powder methamphetamine and limited quantities of high-purity ice methamphetamine to fill voids in supply created by decreased local production. Heroin availability and abuse, while low, are rising in the Appalachia HIDTA region, particularly among young Caucasians who had previously abused prescription narcotics. Mexican black tar and brown powder heroin and South American (SA) heroin are available in small quantities throughout the region; however, Mexican heroin is becoming increasingly available. ODDs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy), GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) are available in the region on a limited and sporadic basis.

End Note

6. The Appalachia HIDTA designated 19 law enforcement initiatives or program areas (eight in Kentucky, five in Tennessee, and six in West Virginia) for 2007. Included in the 19 initiatives are marijuana eradication task forces in Kentucky and West Virginia, a national forest marijuana investigative task force in Kentucky, and a public corruption initiative in Kentucky.

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