ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
Georgia Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine poses an increasing threat to Georgia, particularly in northern and central sections of the state, and law enforcement officials and healthcare professionals report that a more diverse group is abusing the drug. In parts of northern Georgia, methamphetamine has emerged as the primary drug threat. Although methamphetamine-related treatment admissions have increased throughout the state, methamphetamine abuse has not yet become a problem in the Atlanta area. Most of the methamphetamine available in Georgia is produced by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups in high volume laboratories in Mexico, California, and southwestern states. Methamphetamine also is produced in Georgia by local independent Caucasian producers and, to a lesser extent, by OMGs. Mexican criminal groups transport most of the methamphetamine available in Georgia from Mexico, California, and southwestern states using commercial and private vehicles. These groups are also the primary wholesale distributors that sell the drug to a variety of other criminal groups in the state. Mexican criminal groups, local independent Caucasian dealers and, to a lesser extent, OMGs and Hispanic gang members are the principal retail distributors of methamphetamine in Georgia.
Treatment data indicate that there are fewer methamphetamine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities than admissions for cocaine and marijuana abuse in Georgia; however, the number of methamphetamine-related admissions more than doubled from 1997 through 2001. The number of methamphetamine-related admissions to publicly funded facilities decreased from 451 in 1997 to 263 in 1999, then increased dramatically to 953 in 2001, according to TEDS. (See Table 1 in Cocaine section.)
Methamphetamine abuse is increasing in Georgia, but this trend is not evident in Atlanta. While statewide methamphetamine treatment admissions have increased significantly since 1997, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths and ED mentions in the Atlanta area have remained low.
Methamphetamine infrequently is cited in drug-related deaths in the Atlanta metropolitan area. (See text box in Cocaine section.) According to DAWN ME data, methamphetamine was a factor in 3 of the 233 drug-related deaths in Atlanta in 2000--a decrease from 4 out of 466 deaths in 1999. It was the only drug present in one drug-related death in 2000.
From 1997 through 2001 the number of methamphetamine-related ED mentions was lower than the number of mentions for cocaine, marijuana, or heroin. According to DAWN, the number of methamphetamine-related ED mentions in Atlanta fluctuated from 214 in 1997 to 172 in 2001. The rate of methamphetamine-related ED mentions per 100,000 population in Atlanta in 2001 (5) was lower than in 1997 (8).
Methamphetamine rarely was detected among adult male arrestees in Atlanta in 2000. According to ADAM, only 0.5 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine abuse in Atlanta in 2000.
Methamphetamine currently is abused by a more diverse population in Georgia. According to law enforcement officials, OMG members and blue-collar workers such as truck drivers were traditionally the predominant methamphetamine abusers in the state. However, a new abuser population emerged in 2000 that includes Caucasian white-collar professionals and college students. Caucasian teenagers and young adults, primarily in central and northern Georgia, also abuse methamphetamine, often in combination with other drugs at raves or nightclubs. Some individuals who frequent raves and nightclubs in Atlanta also abuse crystal methamphetamine or "ice." Ice abuse among the general population in Georgia is rare.
Methamphetamine is readily available in northern and central Georgia and is increasingly available in southern Georgia. In parts of northern Georgia, methamphetamine has emerged as the primary drug threat. Law enforcement officials in Dalton and Macon report that methamphetamine abuse poses a significant drug threat in their jurisdictions. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups produce most of the methamphetamine available in Georgia in high volume laboratories in Mexico, California, and southwestern states using the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method. Small quantities of the drug also are produced in Georgia by local independent Caucasian dealers using the Birch reduction method and, to a lesser extent, by OMGs using the phenyl-2-propanone method. (See text box.)
Methamphetamine prices in Georgia have decreased from 2000 to 2002, possibly indicating increased availability. According to the DEA Atlanta Division, wholesale quantities of methamphetamine in Georgia sold for $5,000 to $10,000 per pound, $500 to $2,000 per ounce, and $80 to $100 per gram in 2002. In 2000 DEA reported that methamphetamine sold for $8,000 to $20,000 per pound, $750 to $2,000 per ounce, and $300 per gram.
Purity levels of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states are generally lower than purity levels of locally produced methamphetamine. DEA reports that in 2001 the purity of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states that was distributed at the wholesale level in Georgia ranged from 2 percent to 18 percent, and the purity of locally produced methamphetamine at the wholesale level ranged from 61 to 99 percent. Law enforcement officials report that local producers generally sell the drug directly to customers without cutting or diluting it with other substances; thus, locally produced methamphetamine has higher purity levels.
Seizure data reflect the ready availability of methamphetamine in Georgia. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Georgia seized 121 kilograms of methamphetamine in 1998, 59 kilograms in 1999, 93 kilograms in 2000, and 76 kilograms in 2001. (See Table 2 in Cocaine section.)
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences in Georgia involving methamphetamine was significantly higher than the national percentage in FY2000. According to USSC data, 25 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Georgia in FY2000 were methamphetamine-related, compared with 15 percent nationwide. Sentencing figures were highest in the U.S. Attorney's Office Northern District of Georgia, where nearly 33 percent of drug-related federal sentences in FY2000 were methamphetamine-related.
Methamphetamine production, distribution, and abuse often are associated with violent crime in Georgia. Mexican criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs, OMGs, and local independent Caucasian dealers that distribute methamphetamine in Georgia commit assault, homicide, and weapons violations. Methamphetamine abusers and producers often commit crimes of domestic violence, including spousal and child abuse and child neglect. Local methamphetamine laboratory operators and distributors often carry pistols and modified shotguns.
Methamphetamine is produced in Georgia usually by Caucasian local independent dealers using the Birch reduction method. However, Mexican DTOs and criminal groups produce most of the methamphetamine available in Georgia using the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method. These DTOs and criminal groups operate high volume laboratories in Mexico, California, and southwestern states.
Methamphetamine laboratory seizures in Georgia have increased dramatically since FY1999. According to the DEA Atlanta Division, methamphetamine laboratory seizures increased from 29 in FY1999, to 88 in FY2000, to 218 in FY2001, to 395 in FY2002.
The Birch reduction method is the primary method used to produce methamphetamine in Georgia. It yields ounce quantities of high quality d-methamphetamine and is used primarily by local independent Caucasian producers. Anhydrous ammonia--a common farm fertilizer readily available at agricultural sites--is a reagent used in this method. According to law enforcement officials, methamphetamine producers in Georgia frequently steal anhydrous ammonia from farms and produce methamphetamine in rural locations. Laboratories also are established in single-family homes, apartments, storage buildings, and automobiles.
Methamphetamine production poses serious safety concerns in Georgia. The production process involves the use of volatile chemicals and creates toxic and hazardous waste that endangers law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, children in homes where methamphetamine is produced, and the environment. Methamphetamine laboratories create 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste for every 1 pound of methamphetamine produced. Most of the toxic residue from methamphetamine production is dumped in the local area, killing vegetation and contaminating water supplies and soil.
Mexican criminal groups transport most of the methamphetamine available in Georgia from Mexico, California, and southwestern states using tractor-trailers or private vehicles. Hispanic gangs such as Sureños 13 and OMGs such as the Outlaws Motorcycle Club also transport methamphetamine from Mexico, California, and southwestern states using private vehicles. As part of Operation Pipeline, state and local law enforcement officials seized over 21 kilograms of methamphetamine in, or destined for, Georgia in 2001. Of the total, over 8 kilograms were seized in the state and 13 kilograms destined for Georgia were seized in other states.
Mexican criminal groups occasionally use couriers aboard commercial airlines and package delivery services to transport methamphetamine into Georgia from Mexico, California, and southwestern states. In 2001 law enforcement officials seized 1 kilogram of methamphetamine as part of Operation Jetway.
Methamphetamine produced in Georgia is transported within the state for distribution. Local independent Caucasian producers and OMGs transport--usually by private vehicle--very small amounts of methamphetamine within a limited radius of the production site to established customers.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors in Georgia of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups. Mexican criminal groups in Georgia usually sell wholesale quantities of methamphetamine to other Mexican criminal groups, local independent Caucasian dealers, OMGs (principally Outlaws), and African American and Hispanic gangs that distribute midlevel and retail level quantities of methamphetamine. These midlevel and retail distributors also travel to California and southwestern states to purchase the drug or distribute small quantities of methamphetamine produced in Georgia.
Mexican criminal groups use various cutting agents to dilute methamphetamine for retail sale. These criminal groups usually dilute the methamphetamine at "cut houses" (private residences where methamphetamine is cut) in Atlanta. They also cut methamphetamine during the production process. The most common cutting agents used by such groups are MSM and caffeine.
OMGs and local independent Caucasian dealers sell methamphetamine at the retail level in locations such as truck stops, strip clubs, bars, housing projects, mobile home parks, and through personal contacts. Local independent Caucasian dealers also sell methamphetamine at raves and dance clubs. Mexican criminal groups and Hispanic gang members usually distribute methamphetamine at open-air markets and on street corners and in alleys.
End of page.