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March 25, 2010
National Drug Intelligence Center Releases National Drug Threat Assessment 2010

JOHNSTOWN, PA - The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a component of the Department of Justice and the nation's principal center for strategic drug intelligence, has released the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 (NDTA 2010), detailing drug trafficking and abuse trends within the United States. In releasing the assessment, NDIC Director, Michael T. Walther stated, "The trafficking and abuse of drugs affects everyone. The economic cost alone is estimated at nearly $215 billion annually."

In receiving the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, Attorney General Eric Holder stated, "This report presents a comprehensive analysis of the drug threat to our nation and will be valuable in helping direct our fight against drug trafficking and abuse."

The NDTA 2010 addresses emerging developments related to the trafficking and use of illicit drugs, the non-medical use of controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), and the laundering of proceeds generated through illicit drug sales. It also addresses the role that drug trafficking organizations and organized gangs serve in domestic drug trafficking, the significant role that the Southwest Border plays in the illicit drug trade, and the societal impact of drug abuse. NDIC analysts estimate that the overall threat posed by illicit drugs will not diminish in the near term.

Director of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said, "The 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment highlights diversion and abuse of prescription drugs as a serious and increasing problem. As part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive approach to reduce drug use and its consequences, ONDCP and Federal partner agencies have developed a plan to curb prescription drug abuse, which includes expanding prescription drug monitoring programs and educating healthcare providers and patients about the danger of abusing prescription drugs."

Notably, the NDTA 2010 details the rising availability of most illicit drugs in the United States largely the result of Mexican DTO efforts to increase drug production and distribution. In fact, in 2009 the prevalence of four of the five major drugs--heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)--was widespread and increasing in some areas. The diversion and abuse of CPDs are also increasing throughout the country. Conversely, cocaine shortages first identified in 2007 persisted in many markets. Additionally, Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) remain the single greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States.

Significant trends include:

  • Increased heroin availability evidenced by higher purity, lower prices, and elevated numbers of heroin-related overdoses and overdose deaths is partly attributable to increased production in Mexico from 17 pure metric tons in 2007 to 38 pure metric tons in 2008, according to U.S. Government estimates.
  • Despite recent government of Mexico (GOM) efforts to prohibit the importation of methamphetamine precursor chemicals, methamphetamine availability increased as the result of higher production in Mexico using alternative, less-efficient precursors. Sustained domestic production also contributed to the increased availability levels.
  • Cocaine shortages have persisted in many U.S. drug markets since early 2007, primarily because of decreased cocaine production in Colombia but also because of increased worldwide demand for cocaine, especially in Europe; high cocaine seizure levels that continued through 2009; and enhanced GOM counterdrug efforts. These factors most likely resulted in decreased amounts of cocaine being transported from Colombia to the U.S.-Mexico border for subsequent smuggling into the United States.
  • The threat posed by the diversion and abuse of CPDs, primarily pain relievers, is increasing, evidenced by the sharp rise in the percentage (4.6% in 2007 to 9.8% in 2009) of state and local law enforcement agencies reporting CPDs as their greatest drug threat. Increased abuse of CPDs has led to elevated numbers of deaths related to prescription opioids, which increased 98 percent from 2002 to 2006.

Mexican DTOs continue to represent the single greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States. Mexican DTOs, already the predominant wholesale suppliers of illicit drugs in the United States, are gaining even greater strength in eastern drug markets where Colombian DTO strength is diminishing. The extent of Mexican DTO influence over domestic drug trafficking was evidenced in several ways in 2009.

  • Mexican DTOs increased their cooperation with U.S.-based street and prison gangs to distribute drugs. In many areas, these gangs were using their alliances with Mexican DTOs to facilitate an expansion of their midlevel and retail drug distribution operations into more rural and suburban areas.
  • Mexican DTOs increased the flow of several drugs (heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana) into the United States, primarily because the increased production in Mexico.
  • Mexican DTOs smuggled bulk cash drug proceeds totaling tens of billions of dollars from the United States through the Southwest Border and into Mexico. Much of the bulk cash (millions each week) was consolidated by the DTOs in several key areas, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and North Carolina, where it was prepared for transport to the U.S.-Mexico border and then smuggled into Mexico.

In preparing the 2010 assessment, NDIC partnered with federal, state, and local agencies in the collection of data and information. NDIC conducted thousands of field interviews with law enforcement and public health officials regarding all aspects of illicit drug activities in their jurisdictions. Another significant source of data and information is the National Drug Threat Survey. NDIC annually surveys a national, statistically representative sample of more than 3,069 state and local law enforcement agencies. Data from the survey are used to produce national-, regional-, and state-level statistical estimates, which NDIC intelligence analysts employ when preparing the national assessment.

A copy of the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 can be found at NDIC's web site at:

National Drug Intelligence Center General Informtion
NOTE: On June 15, 2012, the National Drug Intelligence Center will close. This web site will no longer be maintained. The documents that are currently on this site may contain dated information. They remain available to provide access to historical materials.
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