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Louisiana Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine abuse is rising in Louisiana, especially in the north of the state. Substance abuse counselors in some treatment centers in northern Louisiana report methamphetamine is now the drug of choice in their areas. Many police in northern Louisiana report an increase in domestic violence related to methamphetamine abuse. Increasingly, methamphetamine is being manufactured in mobile laboratories, using a simple technique known as the "Nazi method." Methamphetamine is also produced by Mexican criminal organizations and transported into the state. In general, methamphetamine is distributed by independent Caucasian dealers, producers, and OMGs.
Law enforcement and treatment providers indicate methamphetamine abuse is increasing in Louisiana, especially in the northern rural area. In Bossier and Caddo Parishes, both situated in the northwest corner of the state, treatment counselors state that although crack cocaine continues to be the primary drug of use reported by clients upon admission, methamphetamine is showing up as the self-described drug of choice. Methamphetamine's lower cost and longer lasting euphoric effects have attracted some crack users, adding to the user population. There is a perception that methamphetamine is not as dangerous as cocaine and will not result in long-term addiction. Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant. The body quickly builds up a tolerance to the drug, causing the user to ingest more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect.
Despite relatively low abuse indicator data, people attending treatment clinics report an upswing in methamphetamine use among young people. According to ADAM data, less than 1 percent of arrestees in New Orleans tested positive for methamphetamine at the time of booking. DAWN ED figures also show low levels of abuse in 1999 with 23 out of a total of 4,459 emergency department drug episodes attributed to methamphetamine. Most methamphetamine abusers are Caucasian, male, and between the ages of 15 and 40. Many young people, attracted to the drug's euphoric effects, are increasingly using methamphetamine at rave parties. Use is also increasing among ravers because of the drug's effectiveness at keeping the user awake and active for long periods of time. Many law enforcement personnel in northern Louisiana report that while so-called designer drugs such as ecstasy are perceived as "upper-class" drugs, methamphetamine is regarded as a "lower-class" drug although this perception is changing as more and more young people use the drug at raves.
The DEA New Orleans Field Division reports that while methamphetamine is available throughout the state, it is more readily available in the northern part of the state. Methamphetamine produced locally in small Nazi method laboratories is augmented by mass-produced Mexican methamphetamine. While the Nazi method of production is not as common in the southern part of the state, law enforcement personnel report finding laboratories there more frequently. Most of the methamphetamine transported into the New Orleans area originates in Mexico and California and is transported through Texas.
Generally speaking, methamphetamine wholesale prices in Louisiana tend to increase farther to the south, while retail prices appear to be relatively constant throughout the state. In Shreveport, the DEA estimates a pound of methamphetamine costs $16,000 while in New Orleans, the price rises to roughly $20,000. To the north of Louisiana, in Arkansas, the price drops even more, to roughly $10,000 per pound. The price of methamphetamine at the retail level appears to be relatively constant, at roughly $100 per gram.
Operation Pipeline data show an increase in the number of seizures and the amount of methamphetamine seized on Louisiana highways over the last 2 years. In 1999 there were four methamphetamine seizures for a total of 13 pounds, while in 2000 there were seven seizures for a total of 14 pounds.
The Louisiana State Police, who have participated in various antimethamphetamine task forces throughout the state, estimate that for every methamphetamine laboratory that is confiscated, two to three remain in operation.
Methamphetamine and violence--domestic violence and violence against society in general--have always gone hand in hand. Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can induce violent behavior, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, and delusions. Methamphetamine abuse often occurs in "binge cycles." The most dangerous stage of a binge cycle is known as "tweaking." Typically, during this stage, the abuser has not slept in 3 to 15 days and is irritable and paranoid. The tweaker has an intense craving for more methamphetamine; however, no dosage will recreate the euphoric high. This causes frustration and leads to unpredictability and a potential for violence.
Methamphetamine production and abuse are responsible for an alarming number of domestic abuse crimes ranging from child neglect to homicide. Police throughout northern and central Louisiana report an increase in methamphetamine-related domestic violence as irritable tweakers lash out at family members. Children of methamphetamine users or producers frequently are neglected or injured as a result of their parents' or guardians' addiction.
The production of methamphetamine is becoming an increasingly lucrative business. For many years, OMGs controlled the production and distribution of methamphetamine; however, in the early 1990s Mexican polydrug traffickers entered the market and quickly gained control. While Mexico-produced methamphetamine is available throughout the state of Louisiana, methamphetamine made in small, portable laboratories by local producers is the primary problem.
Law enforcement's realization of the magnitude of the current methamphetamine production problem in northern Louisiana can be traced to a series of events that unfolded in January 1999. According to an official in the West Monroe Police Department familiar with methamphetamine's rise in popularity, a call from security personnel at a large department store alerted police to two individuals who were purchasing large quantities of pseudoephedrine. The subsequent investigation led to the discovery not only of the "cooker," but also of a tank of anhydrous ammonia used in methamphetamine production. Police then conducted 24-hour surveillance on the tank, and subsequently arrested 18 people over the next 14 days, highlighting for the first time the scope of the problem.
Methamphetamine production using the Nazi method is increasing in rural Louisiana, especially in the north. Laboratory operators are primarily low- and middle-income Caucasians who function independently and produce small quantities of methamphetamine. The Nazi method does not require extensive knowledge of chemistry or sophisticated laboratory equipment and is faster than the ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction method. Small quantities of methamphetamine--usually a pound or less--with purity levels of 90 percent can be produced in less than an hour using this method.
The availability of anhydrous ammonia is a key factor in determining whether or not the Nazi method of production becomes popular in a given area and it is plentiful in Louisiana. The Nazi method utilizes chemicals that can be readily purchased in any large department store. Pseudoephedrine, the precursor chemical, is contained in many over-the-counter cold medications. Starter fluid, lithium batteries, and drain cleaner are all ingredients used in the Nazi method of producing methamphetamine. Anhydrous ammonia, also a necessary chemical, is a common fertilizer that is readily available in Louisiana. In fact, Louisiana factories produce 60 percent of all the anhydrous ammonia used in the midwest.
Narcotics officers in northern Louisiana indicate the problem is so widespread, some individuals specialize in providing precursor and essential chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine. Law enforcement personnel in northern Louisiana have learned to target large stores to identify individuals who buy or steal these chemicals. OMGs have chemists who travel around the country teaching members to make methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine production is a serious safety and environmental concern. The production process creates toxic and hazardous waste that endangers law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, and the environment. Methamphetamine laboratories may contain a variety of highly flammable chemicals and produce 5 to 6 pounds of toxic waste for every pound of methamphetamine. Most toxic residue from methamphetamine production is dumped in the local area, contaminating groundwater and killing vegetation.
Methamphetamine producers and distributors in Louisiana use a variety of substances to cut or dilute methamphetamine. Police in northern Louisiana report cooks prefer to use vitamin B-12, a readily available, over-the-counter dietary supplement, although there have been reports of manufacturers and distributors using ordinary cooking flour. Dimethylsulfone (DMSO2) a readily available, nonregulated veterinary food supplement used for its anti-inflammatory effect, is being used throughout the country to cut methamphetamine. DMSO2 closely resembles high-purity methamphetamine in both texture and color, making it a favorite of methamphetamine manufacturers and distributors. Several forensic chemists throughout the state report finding DMSO2 while testing methamphetamine samples, but generally speaking, it does not appear to be the preferred cutting agent in Louisiana.
The methamphetamine produced in Nazi method laboratories throughout Louisiana is generally consumed close to where it is manufactured. When transported, it is generally moved in smaller than 1-pound quantities so that it can be easily concealed almost anywhere in a private or commercial vehicle.
Mexican DTOs in Mexico and California operate "superlabs," which are capable of producing 10 or more pounds at a time. They use passenger cars, commercial vehicles, mail and package delivery companies, and public transportation to transport methamphetamine from Mexico into the western states and destinations throughout the United States. Methamphetamine is packaged in kilogram-sized bricks, wrapped in cellophane, concealed in or on the seats, floors, doors, bumpers, and the spare tire or wheel wells of the vehicle. Mexican DTOs often recruit Caucasian couples of all ages to transport methamphetamine.
Interstates 10 and 20, which originate in southern California, are the major pipelines for the transportation of methamphetamine and cocaine from the U.S.-Mexico border to Louisiana. Almost all methamphetamine seizures on Louisiana's highways occur on one of these two highways.
Mexican DTOs have been able to dominate the U.S. methamphetamine market by using their existing cocaine and marijuana smuggling networks to transport and distribute the drug. OMGs have historically been deeply involved in the production and distribution of methamphetamine and continue to serve as midlevel wholesalers in Louisiana. OMGs now primarily rely on Mexican DTOs operating out of Houston, Dallas, or California for most of their supply. These OMGs, primarily the Bandidos and Sons of Silence in Louisiana, rely on out-of-state chapters to foster connections with methamphetamine suppliers. Commercial truck drivers have also been identified as wholesale suppliers. They often serve as couriers for Mexican DTOs by transporting methamphetamine from the Southwest Border region to Louisiana.
According to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, Louisiana law enforcement sources implicate local independent Caucasian dealers as the primary retail distributors of methamphetamine. Sales take place primarily in rural areas where most consumption occurs. While much of the methamphetamine produced by small, independent "cookers" is for personal use, some is sold. Generally, the maximum an independent cooker can produce at one time is 1 pound, but in fact, those amounts are usually much smaller (an ounce or less). Shreveport is experiencing a significant rise in methamphetamine distribution by Caucasian organizations operating on a small scale. The Shreveport Police Department identified Mexican criminals, in addition to independent Caucasian dealers, as retail distributors in its area. In southern Louisiana where methamphetamine is an emerging problem, police report distributors travel from rural areas into larger towns to conduct retail sales. The producers/distributors sell methamphetamine to the middle-class high school crowd generally in 3.5 gram "eight-balls."
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