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Drug Threat Overview

Ice methamphetamine production and abuse pose the greatest drug threats in the Central Valley HIDTA region. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2010,b 22 of the 28 law enforcement respondents in the Central Valley HIDTA region identify ice methamphetamine as the drug that poses the greatest threat in their jurisdictions. Methamphetamine is available and abused at high levels throughout the region and is associated with most of the drug-related violent crime and property crime. Additionally, treatment providers in the region have identified methamphetamine as the primary substance of abuse for treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities from 2004 through 2009.

Most of the ice methamphetamine available in the area is transported by Mexican DTOs from source areas in Mexico or produced in local clandestine laboratories in the HIDTA region. Increased methamphetamine availability in the HIDTA region has resulted in a decline in wholesale prices from approximately $20,000 per pound during the fourth quarter of 2008 to $14,000 per pound during the fourth quarter of 2009. Central Valley HIDTA initiatives report that methamphetamine seizures increased 29 percent from 2008 through 2009. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Central Valley HIDTA Initiative Seizures by Drug, in Kilograms, 2008-2009*

  Methamphetamine Marijuana Cocaine Heroin
2009* 258 2,090 534 11
2008 200 234 253 30

Source: National Seizure System.
*Data as of March 15, 2010.

As a result of the Mexican Government's restrictions on chemical precursor imports into the country since 2005, there has been a marked decrease in the availability of pseudoephedrine--an essential precursor in the production of high-potency d-methamphetaminec--in Mexico. Mexican DTOs have adapted by finding new foreign sources of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and by increasing their implementation of nonephedrine-based methods of methamphetamine production in Mexico. Consequently, some DTOs in Mexico are now producing and distributing lower-potency d,l-methamphetamine using phenylacetic acid, a chemical used to make the methamphetamine precursor chemical P2P (phenyl-2-propanone). In 2010, HIDTA officials reported the emerging availability of d,l-methamphetamine in the region. Although the cost is typically the same for both types, abusers prefer the more potent d-methamphetamine.

Marijuana is widely available and abused in the Central Valley HIDTA region. Marijuana produced in the region is the most prevalent type available, although high-potency marijuana from Canada is also commonly available. All of the 28 state and local law enforcement respondents to the NDTS 2010 report that the drug is highly available in their jurisdictions. The growing demand for high-potency marijuana, high levels of abuse, and the continued exploitation of state medical marijuana laws contribute to the prevalence of cannabis cultivation in the region. Illegal cannabis cultivation operations are especially pervasive and are increasing on public lands and in national forests. In 2009, HIDTA law enforcement officials eradicated almost 1.7 million cannabis plants (approximately 23 percent of all plants seized in California) in the Central Valley HIDTA region, making the region one of the top cannabis cultivation areas in the nation. (See Table A1 in Appendix A.) Indoor cannabis cultivation is also increasing in the region because of the rising number of large-scale indoor grow sites operated by Canada-based Asian DTOs and Caucasian traffickers who have moved operations indoors to avoid outdoor detection and eradication efforts by law enforcement.

Cocaine availability has increased in some areas of the region, as evidenced by lower wholesale prices, increased seizures, and anecdotal law enforcement reporting. Central Valley HIDTA officials report that the price of powder cocaine decreased from $20,000 per kilogram during the fourth quarter of 2008 to approximately $16,000 per kilogram during the fourth quarter of 2009. Law enforcement officials report increased cocaine availability in Fresno, Modesto, Sacramento, and Stockton, and 20 of the 28 NDTS 2010 respondents in the region report that powder cocaine availability is moderate to high in their jurisdictions. Additionally, law enforcement officials in Sacramento and Stockton report that cocaine trafficking and abuse are most often associated with violent crime in their jurisdictions. Cocaine seizures from HIDTA initiatives increased approximately 111 percent from 2008 through 2009. (See Table 1.)

Controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), heroin, and other illicit drugs pose lower threats in the region. CPDs are available, with abuse occurring among all demographic groups. Distributors and abusers commonly divert CPDs through doctor-shopping, drug thefts, prescription forgeries, and Internet purchases. The most commonly abused CPDs are prescription opioid pain relievers.d Treatment providers in the region report that some prescription opioid abusers are switching to heroin as they increase their tolerance to prescription opioids and seek a more euphoric high, and when the availability of heroin is greater than that of prescription opioids. Public treatment admissions for heroin abuse totaled 5,296 in 2009, ranking the drug behind only methamphetamine (11,339) and marijuana (7,047). (See Figure 4.) Mexican black tar heroin is the most available type of heroin in the area. It is abused most often in metropolitan areas of the region, primarily in Fresno and Sacramento. Much of the MDMA available in the region is manufactured in Canada and transported into the Central Valley for abuse or further transport to southern California. GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), ketamine, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine), psilocybin, and Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) are also distributed and abused to varying degrees throughout the region.


b. NDTS data for 2010 cited in this report are as of March 3, 2010. NDTS data cited are raw, unweighted responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies solicited through either NDIC or the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) HIDTA program. Data cited may include responses from agencies that are part of the NDTS 2010 national sample and/or agencies that are part of HIDTA solicitation lists.

c. The drug d-methamphetamine (dextro-methamphetamine) is produced clandestinely, using ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction methods. Highly addictive, d-methamphetamine is the most potent, widely abused form of methamphetamine.

d. Opioid pain relievers include codeine, fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), morphine (MS Contin), oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone (Dolophine), and hydrocodone combinations (Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet).

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