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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
Florida Drug Threat Assessment
July 2003

Other Dangerous Drugs

Other dangerous drugs (ODDs) such as GHB, LSD, ketamine, and diverted pharmaceuticals are available and abused in Florida, but to a lesser extent than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA. However, most federal, state, and local law enforcement officials report that the rate of abuse of these dangerous drugs, particularly diverted pharmaceuticals, is increasing more rapidly than for any other drug. Oxycodone, primarily OxyContin, is one of the most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in Florida. Hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, and Rohypnol) also are diverted and abused. Diverted pharmaceuticals typically are sold to acquaintances and established customers.

Local independent Caucasian dealers, often middle-class suburban teenagers and young adults, generally are the primary distributors and abusers of most ODDs in Florida. Hallucinogens such as LSD and ketamine and depressants such as GHB and its analogs generally are sold at raves or techno parties, dance clubs, gyms, nightclubs, private parties, high school and college campuses, and over the Internet.

   

GHB and Analogs

The threat posed by GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs--GBL, BD, GHV, and GVL--is increasing in Florida. GHB is a depressant that occurs naturally in the body and is necessary for full functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Synthetic GHB and its analogs commonly are known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, and Georgia home boy. GHB analogs are drugs that possess chemical structures that closely resemble GHB. At lower doses GHB and its analogs cause dizziness, nausea, and visual disturbances. At higher doses unconsciousness, seizure, severe respiratory depression, and coma can occur. GHB and its analogs increasingly have been involved in poisonings, overdoses, sexual assaults, and fatalities in Florida. GHB is eliminated from the body quickly, making detection difficult. GHB can be produced easily from readily obtainable ingredients, one of which is GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a solvent commonly used as a paint thinner. Once ingested, GBL is converted into GHB in the body. GHB can be produced as a clear liquid, white powder, pill, or capsule. GHB normally has a salty taste, which often is masked by dissolving the drug in flavored liquids. Liquid GHB also can be purchased in colors such as pink, blue, or yellow.

GHB frequently is abused in Florida. The emergency medical service of Escambia County reports that more overdoses result from GHB abuse than from abuse of any other illegal drug in its area. Further, the 2001 Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners indicates that there were 23 deaths in which GHB was detected in the decedent's body in Florida in 2000 and 28 in 2001.

GHB Analogs

Analog Chemical/Alternative Name
GBL gamma-butyrolactone
furanone di-hydro
dihydrofuranone
BD 1,4-butanediol
tetramethylene glycol
sucol-B
butylene glycol
GVL gamma-valerolactone
4-pentanolide
GHV gamma-hydroxyvalerate
methyl-GHB

GHB often is available in Florida. Young adults, usually Caucasian, are the principal distributors and abusers of GHB in Florida. According to the DEA Miami Division, liquid GHB sold for $300 to $700 per gallon and $5 to $10 per dosage unit in the second quarter of FY2002. A capful, typically the size of the cap from a small water bottle, is the most common dosage unit available at the retail level. GHB often is sold at raves or techno parties, dance clubs, gyms, nightclubs, private parties, high school and college campuses, and over the Internet.


Largest GHB Seizure in Florida History

On April 22, 2002, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials arrested three individuals and seized a total of 20 gallons--approximately 160 pounds--of GHB in Orlando and Ponte Vedra Beach. This was the largest GHB seizure in Florida history.

Source: Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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LSD

Also known as acid, boomers, and yellow sunshine, LSD rarely is available or abused in Florida. LSD is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perceptions. The effects of LSD are unpredictable, depending upon the amount taken, the environment in which it is abused, and the abuser's personality, mood, and expectations. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, nausea, numbness, weakness, insomnia, dry mouth, and tremors. Abusers may feel the effects for up to 12 hours. Two long-term disorders associated with LSD are persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (flashbacks). High school and college-age individuals are the primary LSD abusers in Florida; they typically administer the drug orally. According to TEDS data, there were 172 hallucinogen-related treatment admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities in Florida in 2001. Not all of these admissions were LSD-related.

LSD is available in capsule, microdot, pill, and liquid forms and on pieces of blotter paper that have absorbed the drug. Some abusers conceal liquid LSD in breath mint vials or eyedrop bottles. According to the DEA Miami Division, LSD sold for $3 to $8 per dosage unit during the second quarter of FY2002.

Most LSD available in the state is produced in northern California and transported into Florida via package delivery services. Local independent Caucasian dealers are the principal wholesale and retail distributors of LSD in the state. LSD typically is distributed at the same venues as GHB.

   

Ketamine

Also known as K, special K, vitamin K, and cat valium, ketamine presents a low threat to Florida. Ketamine is an injectable anesthetic that is approved for human and animal use. It is sold commercially and is produced in liquid, powder, and tablet forms. The liquid form is injected intramuscularly. Liquid ketamine can be boiled into powdered ketamine, some of which is put into capsules. In its powdered form ketamine resembles cocaine or methamphetamine and often is snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products. Snorting ketamine is a practice known to ravers as bumping.


Ketamine Smuggled From Mexico To Florida

In September 2002 DEA agents in southern Florida arrested 10 individuals and seized over 1,500 vials of ketamine. The drug was smuggled via package delivery services from Mexico through San Diego into Florida, New York, and New Jersey.

Source: U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of Florida.

Low dose intoxication from ketamine may result in impaired attention, learning ability, and memory; dissociation, which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences; and hallucinations. High doses of ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine gained popularity among abusers in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP abuse. Ketamine abusers in the United States and the United Kingdom have reported incidents similar to bad LSD trips. Some abusers have tried to jump from moving vehicles.

Ketamine usually is diverted from legitimate sources, primarily veterinary clinics, and typically is sold at raves and other social venues or to known associates. Local independent Caucasian dealers are the principal wholesale and retail distributors of the drug in Florida. According to the DEA Miami Division, ketamine sold for $40 per vial in Florida in the second quarter of FY2002.

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Diverted Pharmaceuticals

Diverted pharmaceuticals frequently are abused in Florida. Oxycodone, primarily OxyContin, is more commonly diverted than any other pharmaceutical in Florida. Hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, and Rohypnol) also are diverted and abused. Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid analgesic used for relieving moderate to severe chronic pain. It is similar to hydrocodone but is more potent and has a greater potential for abuse. Hydromorphone is an opioid used to relieve pain by acting on specific areas of the spinal cord and brain that process pain signals from nerves throughout the body. Benzodiazepines are minor tranquilizers that reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles, and induce sleep. Benzodiazepines can produce physiological and psychological dependence and can be lethal.


Common Pharmaceutical Diversion Methods

Pharmaceuticals usually are illegally obtained through theft, "doctor shopping," prescription forgery, and improper prescribing practices by physicians. Pharmaceuticals are also stolen by pharmacy employees and others. Doctor shopping occurs when individuals, who may or may not have a legitimate ailment, visit numerous physicians to obtain drugs in excess of what should be legitimately prescribed. Prescription forgery occurs when dealers or abusers steal prescriptions from physicians or alter the writing on prescriptions that doctors have issued. Some unscrupulous physicians prescribe medications for individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the drug at the patient's request, sometimes for a fee or for sexual favors. Legitimate prescription holders also divert portions of their prescriptions for abuse or financial gain.

The diversion and abuse of oxycodone, primarily OxyContin, represent the most significant pharmaceutical drug threat to Florida. OxyContin abusers usually crush the tablets to destroy their controlled-release coating and then snort or inject the drug to obtain a heroin-like high. According to the Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners, oxycodones caused more deaths than any other prescription drug in 2001. The report indicated that oxycodones caused 317 deaths in Florida in 2001 and were present in another 220 individuals. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and treatment providers report that OxyContin, once predominantly abused by lower-income, middle-age individuals, now also is abused by middle-class individuals at an increasing rate and that the average age of abusers is decreasing.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials report that a 40-milligram tablet of OxyContin generally sells for $40 in Florida. However, prices vary significantly in the state. In the Miami metropolitan area, 40-milligram tablets of OxyContin have sold for as little as $18 to $20. In other parts of southern Florida, some local law enforcement officials report that OxyContin prices have increased as supplies for the drug have decreased. On October 8, 2002, officials from the Port St. Lucie Police Department and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office reported that OxyContin abusers in their areas increasingly are substituting heroin for OxyContin in response to a decline in OxyContin availability and a corresponding increase in price. Port St. Lucie officials report that the decrease in OxyContin availability and the increase in its price resulted from the arrest of a distributor who sold significant quantities of OxyContin as well as the arrests of two area doctors who illegally prescribed OxyContin to abusers. On March 23, 2002, a Milton, Florida, doctor was sentenced to 63 years in prison for four counts of manslaughter, one count of racketeering, and five counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. The controlled substances primarily included OxyContin, Lortab, and Xanax. In addition, many area doctors are hesitant to prescribe OxyContin because of its high potential for abuse.


OxyContin Abusers Switching to Heroin in Many Areas of the Country

The trend for OxyContin abusers to switch to heroin is not limited to the Port St. Lucie area. The use of heroin as a substitute for OxyContin has been reported in 12 of 20 nationwide Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Pulse Check sites. Moreover, many law enforcement agencies in areas where OxyContin abuse is prevalent, such as Maine and western Pennsylvania, attribute recent increases in heroin abuse to users switching from OxyContin to heroin because of OxyContin's increasing cost as well as effective government efforts to control its diversion.

Source: ONDCP.

Benzodiazepines, hydrocodones, and methadone are also commonly diverted and abused, often in combination with other drugs in Florida. Furthermore, benzodiazepine-, hydrocodone-, and methadone-related deaths appear to be increasing. Law enforcement officials and treatment professionals in the state report that crack cocaine and methamphetamine abusers occasionally abuse these prescription drugs along with oxycodones to ameliorate the negative effects of these stimulants. According to the 2001 Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners, there were 1,378 benzodiazepine-related deaths in the state that year--more than for any other drug except alcohol. Benzodiazepines were determined to be the cause of death in 297 of these deaths. Benzodiazepine-related deaths increased 10 percent from 661 in the first half of 2001 to 734 in the first half of 2002. The report also indicates that there were 420 hydrocodone-related deaths in 2001, with hydrocodones determined to be the cause of death in 146 of these deaths. Hydrocodone-related deaths increased 15 percent from 211 in the first half of 2001 to 248 in the first half of 2002. Additionally, there were 357 methadone-related deaths in 2001, with methadone determined to be the cause of death in 179 of these deaths. Methadone-related deaths increased 36 percent from 163 in the first half of 2001 to 254 in the first half of 2002.

Local independent Caucasian dealers are the principal wholesale and retail distributors of diverted pharmaceuticals in Florida. Retail distributors often sell diverted pharmaceuticals to acquaintances and established customers.


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