ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
Texas Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine is a significant drug threat to Texas. High purity, low cost methamphetamine is readily available, and the drug is widely abused, particularly in rural areas. Methamphetamine produced in Mexico is the predominant type available. Locally produced methamphetamine also is available and is becoming more prevalent. Methamphetamine production in Texas is increasing, as is the number of methamphetamine laboratories being seized by law enforcement officials. Caucasian criminal groups and independent Caucasian laboratory operators produce methamphetamine in Texas. They generally produce ounce quantities using the Birch reduction method. Methamphetamine also is produced by Mexican criminal groups and independent producers as well as OMGs. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control most of the transportation and wholesale distribution of Mexico-produced methamphetamine. Hispanic street gangs, prison gangs, and OMGs also distribute wholesale quantities of the drug. Mexican criminal groups control most of the retail-level methamphetamine distribution in the state; however, Caucasian criminal groups as well as street gangs, prison gangs, OMGs, and various other criminal groups and independent dealers also distribute methamphetamine at the retail level.
Methamphetamine abuse is high in Texas, according to law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Many agencies report that the level of methamphetamine abuse is rising in their jurisdictions and that Caucasians appear to be the primary abusers. Further, in response to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2002, 47 percent of the 156 law enforcement respondents in Texas who rated the level of methamphetamine abuse in their jurisdictions reported high levels of abuse, and 30 percent reported medium levels of abuse.
Methamphetamine-related admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities are increasing. According to TCADA, amphetamine and methamphetamine-related adult admissions to publicly funded treatment programs increased from 7 percent of drug admissions in 1998 to 12 percent in 2002. There were 1,672 amphetamine/methamphetamine-related admissions in 1998; 1,510 in 1999; 2,629 in 2001; and 3,186 in 2002. In 2002 Caucasians accounted for the largest percentage of these admissions (92%), followed by Hispanics (6%), and African Americans (1%).
Methamphetamine also is abused by adolescents in Texas. According to TCADA, amphetamine/methamphetamine accounted for 2.3 percent of the 5,178 youth drug treatment admissions (excluding alcohol) to TCADA-funded treatment programs in 2002, an increase from 1.5 percent the previous year. The average age at which youths were admitted to treatment for amphetamine/methamphetamine abuse was 16. Caucasians accounted for the largest percentage of these admissions (80%), followed by Hispanics (12%), and African Americans (2%).
The number of amphetamine/methamphetamine emergency department (ED) mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased from 422 in 1997 to 489 in 2001, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). In 2001 the rate of amphetamine/methamphetamine mentions per 100,000 population in the Dallas metropolitan area (16) was higher than the rate nationwide (13). (Dallas is the only city in Texas that reports ED data to DAWN.)
According to TCADA, 17 amphetamine/methamphetamine-related deaths occurred in Texas in 1997; 20 in 1998; 21 in 1999; 39 in 2000; and 51 in 2001. DAWN mortality data indicate that the number of deaths in which methamphetamine was a factor increased in both Dallas and San Antonio from 1997 through 2001. Methamphetamine-related deaths increased from 18 in 1997 to 37 in 2001 in the Dallas metropolitan area and from 8 to 18 in the San Antonio metropolitan area. (Disparities in mortality data are likely a result of differences in data collection and reporting.)
The number of calls to Texas Poison Control Centers has increased from 220 calls in 1998 to 282 in 1999, 393 in 2000, 451 in 2001, then decreased to 392 in 2002.
In 2001 methamphetamine was detected in only a small percentage of adult male arrestees in Dallas, Laredo, and San Antonio. According to the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program, 1.7 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine use in Dallas during 2001, and 2.6 percent tested positive in San Antonio. No adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine use in Laredo during 2001.
Methamphetamine is readily available throughout Texas. Of the 162 law enforcement respondents to the NDTS 2002 in Texas who rated the level of methamphetamine availability in their jurisdictions, 80 percent reported that methamphetamine was readily available. Methamphetamine produced in Mexico is the most dominant type; however, methamphetamine produced in Texas, California, and other southwestern states is available to varying degrees throughout the state. In addition, high purity crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as ice or glass, is becoming increasingly available throughout northern and eastern Texas.
Seizure data indicate the ready availability of methamphetamine in Texas. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officers in Texas seized 265 kilograms of methamphetamine in 1998, 381 in 1999, 622 in 2000, 452 in 2001, and 367 kilograms in 2002. In 2002 Texas ranked second in the nation for the quantity of methamphetamine seized. (See Table 1 in Overview section.)
As further indication of the ready availability of methamphetamine, Texas DPS laboratories have analyzed increasing amounts of the drug. For example, Texas DPS laboratories analyzed 294,000 grams of methamphetamine in 2000, compared with only 8,393 grams in 1993. (See Chart 1.)
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were methamphetamine-related in Texas was lower than the national percentage in FY2001, despite a dramatic increase in the number of methamphetamine-related federal sentences in the state. According to USSC data in FY2001, 7 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Texas were methamphetamine-related compared with 14 percent nationally. Methamphetamine-related federal sentences in Texas more than doubled from 154 in FY1997 to 326 in FY2001.
In FY2002 methamphetamine prices throughout Texas varied depending on the location of sale and the amount purchased. DEA reported that wholesale quantities of Mexico-produced methamphetamine sold for $5,800 to $9,000 per pound in Dallas, $10,600 per pound in El Paso, and $6,000 to $11,000 per pound in Houston. Prices for ounce and gram quantities of methamphetamine also varied throughout the state. Methamphetamine sold for $400 per ounce in Dallas, $960 per ounce in El Paso, and $500 to $800 per ounce in Houston. Methamphetamine sold for $70 to $100 per gram in Dallas and $90 per gram in El Paso. Law enforcement agencies in Texas, including DEA, HIDTAs, and local task forces, reported that the purity of methamphetamine ranged from as low as 17 percent to as high as 90 percent during FY2002. Crystal methamphetamine price and purity data are not reported for Texas; however, in other states the purity of crystal methamphetamine typically is greater than 80 percent and often exceeds 90 percent.
Law enforcement officials in Texas report that crystal methamphetamine is increasingly available in Dallas and Houston. According to the DEA Houston Division, crystal methamphetamine is being sold in nightclubs in Houston. Officers from the Austin Police Department also report that the availability of crystal methamphetamine recently has increased in its jurisdiction, and they believe the drug is being produced locally.
Methamphetamine-related violence poses a significant threat to Texas. Violence is more commonly associated with the production, distribution, and abuse of methamphetamine than with any other illicit drug. Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can induce anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, delusions, and violent behavior, particularly during the "tweaking" stage of abuse. (See text box.)
Prison gangs are involved in the distribution of methamphetamine in Texas, and they display a propensity for violence, particularly in safeguarding their drug operations. Members of Texas Mafia, a Caucasian gang that operates within and outside Texas prisons, have committed robbery, burglary, and theft to obtain funds to expand their methamphetamine distribution activities. Members of Texas Mafia (see text box) also reportedly have been involved in homicides, including inmate homicides. In addition, members of Texas Mafia maintain a close association with the Texas Syndicate prison gang and reportedly have engaged in "contract killings" on its behalf.
Most of the methamphetamine available in Texas is produced in Mexico by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups. However, methamphetamine production occurs in Texas and is increasing throughout the state. According to EPIC's National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (NCLSS), federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities in Texas seized 502 methamphetamine laboratories in 2002, an increase from 422 in 2001 and 255 in 2000.
Methamphetamine laboratories are located throughout the state, particularly in rural and moderately populated areas of western Texas and the border region. Law enforcement officials report that they regularly seize methamphetamine and methamphetamine laboratories throughout the state. Criminal groups and individuals operating in these areas establish secluded laboratory sites which enable them to avoid law enforcement detection and easily dispose of hazardous waste. In addition, law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine production is increasing in rural areas in eastern Texas as well as in urban areas such as Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio.
Methamphetamine producers also increasingly are using hotel or motel rooms for methamphetamine production, which poses a danger to individuals in surrounding rooms or buildings. Some hotels and motels have centralized air ventilation systems through which poisonous vapors and gases from methamphetamine laboratories can spread to other rooms via ductwork. Moreover, methamphetamine laboratories are an extreme fire risk. The DEA Dallas Division reports an increase in motel fires that they believe may be related to the production of methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine laboratories in Texas are generally small and yield ounce quantities of the drug. Most methamphetamine laboratories are operated by Caucasian criminal groups and independent Caucasian producers. Mexican criminal groups and OMGs also produce methamphetamine in the state, although to a lesser extent. These groups use ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction methods (see text box), primarily the Birch reduction method, to produce methamphetamine. Birch reduction laboratories are becoming more common throughout the state. The Central East Texas Narcotics Task Force reports that Birch reduction laboratories are increasingly common in its jurisdiction because of the ready availability of precursor and essential chemicals, most of which can be purchased over the counter from local stores
Crystal methamphetamine conversion laboratories also have been encountered in Texas. According to law enforcement officials, Mexican criminal groups are becoming increasingly involved in the conversion and distribution of crystal methamphetamine in Texas.
The ready availability of precursor chemicals and reagents used in methamphetamine production contribute to the threat posed by methamphetamine. Laboratory operators in the state commonly extract ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from cold pills and other over-the-counter medications and purchase other chemicals such as iodine, lithium, and ether from businesses that distribute these products for legitimate purposes. Methamphetamine producers in Texas also obtain large quantities of precursor and essential chemicals in Mexico. They typically smuggle these chemicals through the Texas POEs in private vehicles. They also smuggle or transport chemicals into Texas by bus, train, commercial and private aircraft, package delivery services, and couriers on foot.
Methamphetamine producers in the state also steal anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer, from farm supply stores and farmers' fields. Anhydrous ammonia generally is stored in mobile tanks that contain 400 to 1,000 gallons of the chemical. Methamphetamine laboratory operators often steal the chemical by siphoning it from the tanks. They also purchase illegally diverted anhydrous ammonia for as much as $500 per gallon. When purchased from legitimate suppliers, anhydrous ammonia sells for approximately 50 cents per gallon.
Methamphetamine production poses serious safety and environmental threats to Texas. The production process creates toxic and hazardous waste that endangers law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, children (particularly those who reside in the homes of methamphetamine producers), and the environment.
Seizure data indicate that Texas is becoming a key entry point for methamphetamine produced in Mexico. EPIC data indicate that the amount of methamphetamine seized in Texas within 150 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border increased from 263 kilograms in 1999 to 386 kilograms in 2002--the second-highest quantity seized among border states. (See Table 2.) Although shipments of methamphetamine interdicted at the border typically are in small quantities, there have been some large seizures. On April 8, 2002, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents monitoring the Rio Grande River near Roma, Texas, seized more than 21 pounds of methamphetamine and 1,260 pounds of marijuana from an abandoned truck. Other large methamphetamine seizures at or near the border include 42 pounds seized from a sport-utility vehicle at the Eagle Pass POE on August 28, 2002; approximately 49 pounds seized from a private vehicle at the Hidalgo POE on September 2, 2002; and 27 pounds seized from a pickup truck at a checkpoint on US 54 on October 24, 2002.
Most of the methamphetamine available in Texas is smuggled into the state from Mexico by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups. These DTOs and criminal groups smuggle the drug in private and commercial vehicles using a variety of concealment methods. According to Texas DPS, concealment locations include gas tanks, consoles, front doors, quarter panels, and toolboxes.
Methamphetamine also is transported into the state from California and other southwestern states, although to a lesser extent than from Mexico. Caucasian criminal groups and independent dealers who produce methamphetamine in Texas also transport the drug throughout the state.
Methamphetamine from Mexico commonly is transported from border areas to primary market areas via I-10, I-20, and I-35. The North Texas HIDTA reports that methamphetamine traffickers use I-35 as a primary route for transporting the drug to destinations in Texas as well as in northern and eastern states. Traffickers also use I-40, an east-west route, to transport methamphetamine through the state. In January 2002 Texas DPS officers seized more than 500 grams of methamphetamine from a private vehicle on I-40 in Wheeler County, east of Amarillo. Moreover, law enforcement agencies in western Texas report that methamphetamine is transported from California on I-40 through Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Texas. Some methamphetamine from California also is transported through Texas en route to other states, particularly Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southeastern states. Operation Pipeline/Convoy data indicate that state and local law enforcement officers have seized a significant amount of methamphetamine on Texas highways. State and local law enforcement officers in Texas seized 74 kilograms of methamphetamine from private and commercial vehicles traveling along Texas highways in 2000. Three of the seizures were 10 kilograms or more: 10.0 kilograms were seized from a private vehicle traveling on I-40 from California to Missouri; 10.9 kilograms from a private vehicle traveling on I-35 from Laredo to Austin; and 10.9 kilograms from a private vehicle traveling on US 281 from Donna (TX) to San Antonio.
Methamphetamine also is transported into and through the state by couriers traveling aboard buses and trains, by couriers traveling on foot, and via package delivery services. Operation Jetway data indicate that in 2000, law enforcement officers in Texas seized 22 kilograms of methamphetamine that were transported (or intended for transport) aboard buses, trains, or via package delivery services. The majority (12 kg) was seized from passengers or luggage on commercial buses.
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of methamphetamine in Texas. Hispanic street gangs, prison gangs, and OMGs also distribute wholesale quantities of the drug. According to the DEA Austin Resident Office and the Midland Police Department, Hispanic street gangs and prison gangs distribute methamphetamine at the wholesale level in their jurisdictions. The Tri-County Narcotics Task Force reports that OMGs, particularly Bandidos, dominate methamphetamine distribution in its jurisdiction north of Corpus Christi. Other OMGs, such as Tiburones and Amigos, also distribute wholesale quantities of methamphetamine throughout the state.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary retail distributors of methamphetamine in Texas. Caucasian criminal groups as well as street gangs, prison gangs, OMGs, and various other criminal groups and independent dealers also distribute methamphetamine at the retail level. Caucasian criminal groups and independent dealers who operate methamphetamine laboratories in the state also distribute retail quantities of the drug. The San Antonio Police Department reports that prison gangs including Texas Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Mexikanemi, and Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (see text box) are the primary retail methamphetamine distributors in its jurisdiction. The San Antonio Police Department reports that the Bandidos OMG distributes retail quantities of methamphetamine in that city.
Other retail methamphetamine distributors are present in Texas, but their activities vary depending on location. The Garland Police Department reports that the Asian Pride and Little Saigon Hoodlums street gangs distribute methamphetamine at the retail level in its jurisdiction. The Harris County Sheriff's Department, whose jurisdiction includes Houston, reports that retail-level methamphetamine distribution in its area is dominated by Caucasian criminal groups, but that Asian (Chinese), Caribbean, and Mexican criminal groups, OMGs, prison gangs, and street gangs also distribute the drug. The Central South Texas Narcotics Task Force in George West reports that Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of methamphetamine in its jurisdiction.
Retail-level methamphetamine distributors in Texas employ various marketing techniques in an attempt to expand their operations. The Houston Police Department reports that the increasing popularity of methamphetamine in its jurisdiction is largely due to retail distributors passing out samples of the drug to pique user interest. Dealers also give away samples of methamphetamine with other drugs they distribute.
End of page.