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Abuse

Cocaine, both powder and crack, is the primary illicit substance most often identified in treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in the Atlanta MSA. According to data from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases (MHDDAD), the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions in the Atlanta MSA in state fiscal year (SFY)14 2007 and SFY2008 (the latest period for which such data are available) was greater than the number of treatment admissions for heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, or other illicit substances.15 (See Table 5).

Table 5. Primary Drug Treatment Admissions, Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area, SFY2007-SFY2008*

Primary Drug at Admission 2007 2008
Cocaine (powder and crack) 2,435 2,190
Heroin/morphine 389 358
Marijuana/hashish/THC** 1,902 1,904
Methamphetamine/speed 857 598
All other substances, excluding alcohol 763 732
Total admissions, excluding alcohol 6,346 5,782

Source: Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases.
*Figures in this table represent the number of consumers who had at least one admission during the SFY in which the primary "substance problem at admission" was the substance shown. A consumer is counted only once per calendar year per primary substance problem, regardless of the number of admissions for that problem. Note that a consumer may be counted in more than one category per SFY, because the consumer may have had separate admissions for different primary substances. This table includes only those admissions to services funded or operated by the State of Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases and does not include admissions to services of any other providers, public or private.
**THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannnabinol).

Ice methamphetamine abuse levels are stable throughout the region; the drug is typically of high purity. Public health authorities report that most methamphetamine abusers are Caucasians and Hispanics and that female abusers outnumbered male abusers in the Atlanta MSA among individuals seeking treatment for the abuse of amphetamines, which include methamphetamine.

CPDs and MDMA are considerable threats to the Atlanta HIDTA region. The most widely available and commonly abused CPDs are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and diazepam. Law enforcement officials report that CPD abuse is a growing problem among Caucasian young adults. MDMA available in the Atlanta HIDTA region is generally abused in combination with other substances, including alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana. MDMA is most commonly available in Buckhead (northern Atlanta) and Midtown and is used mainly by Caucasian youths; however, MDMA abuse has increased among African Americans in the region. The abuse and availability of MDMA tablets combined with other dangerous substances are increasing in the Atlanta HIDTA region; adulterated MDMA tablets have also been seized throughout Georgia. Law enforcement and intelligence reporting reveals that MDMA tablets available in the region are often adulterated with substances such as methamphetamine, MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), BZP (N-benzylpiperazine), TFMPP (1-(3-trifluoromethylphenyl)piperazine), ketamine, and caffeine. MDMA adulterated with methamphetamine, known in the Atlanta HIDTA region as double stacks, is increasingly available and abused, particularly among African Americans. The DEA Atlanta Field Division reports that adulterated MDMA is usually distributed by Canada-based Asian DTOs as a means to open new methamphetamine markets. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada-based DTOs are increasingly producing adulterated MDMA tablets, and in some cases these tablets do not contain any MDMA but, rather, are a combination of other substances, particularly methamphetamine because it is easier and less expensive to produce than MDMA.

Heroin abuse is limited throughout most of the Atlanta HIDTA region. Heroin abuse is largely confined to an established population of long-term Caucasian heroin abusers in the Atlanta area. However, law enforcement officers in North Carolina report the increasing availability and abuse of Mexican heroin in Atlanta HIDTA counties in North Carolina; the drug is distributed by Mexican traffickers and African American distributors.

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Illicit Finance

Mexican traffickers use the Atlanta area as a bulk cash consolidation center, storing large sums of cash in stash houses before moving bulk cash shipments to the Southwest Border area and Mexico in commercial or private vehicles. For example, federal and local law enforcement officials seized $7.65 million in U.S. currency from a single stash house located in Gwinnett County, Georgia, in May 2008. Moreover, seizure data indicate that traffickers are moving large amounts of bulk cash through Atlanta en route to the Southwest Border area and Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Lightening Operations Center (BLOC), law enforcement officers in the southeastern United States seized more than $29 million in bulk cash that was being transported from Atlanta to the Southwest Border area in 2008.16

Traffickers in the region use money services businesses, structured bank deposits, purchases of real estate and luxury items, and cash-intensive businesses to launder drug proceeds; they also engage in "asset substitution."17 Members of Mexican distribution cells use wire transfers and money remitters to send drug proceeds to their sources of supply in Mexico. Traffickers in the region also use front companies, cash-intensive businesses, and real estate to launder drug proceeds.


Footnotes

14. The state fiscal year (SFY) runs from July through June.
15. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) data are not available for the state of Georgia after 2006 because of a revision in the methodology in which treatment admissions are counted in Georgia.
16. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Lightening Operations Center (BLOC) provides the Gulf Coast HIDTA with 24-hour phone communications and the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) with real-time information from various databases.
17. Asset substitution involves a third party, often a facilitator or criminal associate, who purchases items such as used automobiles or boats in the United States and then ships the vehicles to another country for resale. Drug traffickers purchase the vehicles from the third party in cash, usually at inflated prices; the purchaser's identity is often concealed. The traffickers then resell the vehicles to unwitting buyers, generally within the same community.


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