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New Jersey Drug Threat Assessment
Other Dangerous Drugs
Other dangerous drugs (ODDs), which include club drugs, stimulants, hallucinogens and diverted pharmaceuticals, have received a lower level of attention in New Jersey. However, club drugs such as MDMA, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), and ketamine, stimulants such as khat, hallucinogens such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP, and diverted pharmaceuticals such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin (all stimulants), and most recently OxyContin (a narcotic) are all available and pose a growing threat in the state.
ODDs such as MDMA, GHB, and ketamine are distributed at raves, rock concerts, on college campuses, and openly in hand-to-hand exchanges. Suppliers and distributors prefer these crowded places, where they can blend easily, exchange phone numbers and set up future meetings. Many of these drugs are also distributed by parcel delivery services or through the mail.
Raves emerged in the 1990s as high energy, all-night dance parties featuring hard, pounding techno music and flashing laser lights. The parties are popular in most metropolitan areas throughout the country and are typically held at permanent or temporary dance clubs set up in abandoned warehouses, open fields, or empty buildings. Raves are promoted through flyers and advertisements distributed at clubs, in record shops and clothing stores, on college campuses, and over the Internet. However, because of increased law enforcement pressure, raves are now promoted secretly in the rave community.
Although rave promoters deny knowing that drugs are sold and used at the parties they promote, most rave club owners and promoters in New Jersey sell specialty items associated with the use of ODDs. For example, hyperthermia and teeth clenching are common side effects of MDMA abuse. Dancers attending raves purchase bottled water and sports drinks to prevent hyperthermia and dehydration, and baby pacifiers to prevent involuntary teeth clenching. Rave club owners also sell menthol nasal inhalers, chemical lights, neon glow sticks, necklaces, and bracelets to enhance the sensory effects of MDMA. MDMA increases a person's energy level and heightens sensory perception.
According to DEA Newark, nightclub owners with alleged ties to IOC sell ODDs in their establishments in New Jersey. Each club employs "house dealers" authorized to distribute MDMA, GHB, and ketamine, among other drugs. These drugs, often displayed "buffet style," are readily accessible or are sold one-on-one. Intelligence reports suggest that house dealers mix MDMA with ketamine, heroin, methamphetamine, GHB, or LSD and refer to them as dopey pills.
MDMA, also called Adam, XTC, E, X, essence, M&M, and love drug, is a synthetic psychoactive drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. MDMA was patented in Germany in 1914 and was sometimes given to psychiatric patients to assist in psychotherapy. This practice was never approved by the American Psychological Association or the Food and Drug Administration. It is sometimes called the "hug drug" because users say it makes them feel good. However, use of the drug may cause psychological difficulties similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse including confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety and paranoia. The physical effects include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.
MDMA taken in high doses is extremely dangerous, causing a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. MDMA use might lead to heart attack, stroke, and seizure as reported in some fatal cases at raves. Recent research links MDMA to long-term, possibly permanent, damage to parts of the brain that are used for thought and memory. People who develop a rash after using MDMA may risk severe liver damage or other serious side effects. For example, an Ocean County teenager died after repeated use of MDMA and several teenagers were hospitalized in critical condition after using MDMA at a rave in Morris County in 1999.
According to DEA Newark, MDMA is categorized as two types--"speedy" and "dopey"--reflecting the effect of the drug. Speedy produces a feeling of energy, which translates into the ability to party all night. Dopey makes a person lethargic, laid-back, and induces an overall vegetative state. In addition, a new drug combination is appearing at area clubs and raves. The combination is called "EKG" and consists of MDMA, ketamine, and a small dose of GHB.
MDMA is available in most New Jersey counties and prices are stable at $20 to $30 per pill. (See Table 10.) Union County officials report that MDMA is available and is often sold with steroids. Monmouth County investigators reported an increase in MDMA availability in the shore communities during summer vacations and in Essex County the remainder of the year. Ocean County investigators report that local distributors now sell 100 to 400 MDMA pills per order, whereas, in the past, purchases of over 50 pills were rare. Camden County officials report a slight increase in distribution of MDMA, as well as other club drugs in 2000, perhaps because of a rave held Memorial Day weekend at the South Jersey Expo Center in Pennsauken. Of the more than 13,000 individuals who attended, nearly 2 dozen partygoers were hospitalized.
Table 10. Other Dangerous Drug Prices (in Dollars), New Jersey, 2000
Source: Drug Enforcement Administration, Newark Field Division, Trends in the Traffic 4th Quarter FY2000.
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The number of MDMA seizures in New Jersey
The number of MDMA seizures in New Jerseyincreased dramatically between 1999 and 2000. USCS seized over 4 million doses of MDMA from October 1999 to March 2000, an all-time high. Law enforcement officials in New Jersey report that MDMA seizures in 2000 totaled 135.9 kilograms, surpassing 1999 seizures by 26 percent.
Most MDMA available in New Jersey is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. Criminal groups in those countries smuggle an estimated 90 percent of the MDMA consumed in the United States, producing 1 million pills a day in mobile laboratories. The pills cost about 5 cents each to produce.
MDMA is purchased in bulk overseas and is smuggled by couriers to the United States. Israeli and Russian criminal groups distribute ODDs, particularly MDMA, to New Jersey where OMGs, teenagers, and young adults then control most of the distribution throughout the state. However, none of these groups or individuals monopolize the trade. USCS reports that IOC and Russian criminal groups continue to work with European distributors, gaining control over a significant portion of the European market. According to law enforcement officials, Russian criminal groups smuggle wholesale quantities of MDMA to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
As with most other illegal drugs, Newark International Airport is a primary smuggling hub for MDMA. A high volume of European traffic passes through the airport annually. Couriers conceal MDMA in suitcases, carry-on bags, or children's toys. On October 22, 1999, USCS arrested three Dutch nationals and seized 200,000 MDMA tablets worth $5 million hidden in three unclaimed suitcases smuggled on a flight from Amsterdam to Newark International Airport. In March 2000, $3 million worth of MDMA pills that were destined for Miami were seized at Newark International Airport. In another case that same month, a Dutch couple attempted to smuggle $5 million worth of MDMA in their luggage. A 46-year-old Dutch woman attempted to smuggle 7,104 tablets of MDMA from the Netherlands to New Jersey in the bottom of her luggage on September 22, 2000.
Transporters also use commercial cargo vessels to smuggle MDMA to New Jersey. MDMA is easily concealed in vehicles shipped from Germany. DEA Newark received a tip that led to the discovery of nine plastic bottles containing approximately 25,000 MDMA tablets hidden in the gas tank of a 1992 BMW 750i, which arrived from Germany aboard a coastal freighter. An alleged smuggler contacted the customs contraband enforcement team in Newark to inquire about the release of the vehicle. He wanted the car shipped to Ohio, where he was later arrested.
GHB, also known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, and Georgia home boy, is a depressant that occurs naturally in the body and is necessary for full functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Users can experience insomnia, anxiety, tremors, sweating, and coma. GHB clears from the body quickly, which makes detection by treatment providers difficult. The drug is increasingly involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and fatalities.
The use of GHB and GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) caused numerous medical emergencies in New Jersey in 1999. Hospitals in the state suspect GHB caused 18 hospital admissions and 2 overdose deaths at a New Jersey university. In addition, a 16-year-old boy distributed liquid GHB to four students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in March 2000. Three of the four students, ranging in age from 14 to 16, either lost consciousness or became ill from the substance.
GHB overdoses can occur quickly; some signs include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and impaired breathing. Death can also occur. Asbury Park Police reported that approximately 30 individuals overdosed on GBL in 1999. In another case in 1999, one person died and several other individuals were treated in Ocean County, New Jersey, on Memorial Day weekend after overdosing on what they believed was GHB. The substance was actually GBL.
GHB prices remain stable according to DEA and the MAGLOCLEN Regional Drug Price and Purity Report. The Warren County Prosecutor's Office and Hunterdon County investigators reported that GHB is now available in their area and is sometimes purchased through the Internet. GHB is called verb or nooch on the street. In Atlantic City, an 8-ounce bottle costs between $100 and $130.
Law enforcement officers at Clarks' Landing in Point Pleasant seized the largest single amount of GHB and items used to produce GHB in New Jersey in July 1998. Officers seized a single mixer, six scales, plastic scoops and lids along with 2,000 empty 4-ounce bottles, $21,000 in cash, and 16 trays of an orange-peach colored substance (which was later determined to be 27 kilograms of GHB) in a drying rack in the garage. Two other bottles were seized in the garage containing 0.24 of a kilogram of GHB.
Ketamine, also called K, special K, vitamin K, and cat valiums, is an injectable anesthetic that is approved for both human and animal use. It is sold commercially as Ketalar. Ketamine is produced in liquid, powder, or pill form. In its liquid form, ketamine is injected intramuscularly or intravenously; by evaporating the liquid, it becomes a powder which can be pressed into tablets. In its powdered form, ketamine can be mistaken for cocaine or methamphetamine and is often snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products.
At high doses, ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Low-dose intoxication from ketamine results in impaired attention, learning ability, and memory. Short term use of ketamine causes hallucinations; its major effect is disassociation, which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences. Ketamine gained popularity among users in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP use (see PCP section). Ketamine users in the United States and the United Kingdom have reported incidents similar to bad LSD trips. While under the influence of the drug, users may believe they can fly or may attempt to exit moving vehicles.
Ketamine is reportedly available in at least 11 of the 21 counties in New Jersey. Law enforcement officials in Bergen County seized 55 bottles of ketamine from a distributor in April 2000.
Khat, also known as qat, African salad, and Bushman's tea, is a natural stimulant found in the leaves of the Catha edulis plant, a flowering evergreen native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Fresh khat leaves are crimson-brown and glossy but become yellow-green and leathery as they age. The leaves contain cathinone and d-methamphetamine, but if left unrefrigerated for 48 hours after picking, the leaves contain only cathine, a form of cathinone that is less potent. The cathinone-cathine is ingested by chewing the leaves. It can produce a caffeine-like jolt and a 24-hour high. Khat was placed on the Schedule 1 Federal Controlled Substances list in 1993.
The chewing of khat leaves is common in areas where it is grown. The drug is wrapped in bouquet size bundles in banana leaves and tied for shipping. To keep them moist, the bundles are sprayed with water before they are packed into suitcases. Khat use can produce manic behavior, paranoid delusions and hallucinations, and can damage the nervous and respiratory systems. Khat use appears to be limited to an ethnic-cultural enclave consisting of immigrant communities from Arabian, East African, and Middle Eastern countries.
Law enforcement officers often seize khat at Newark International Airport, the second largest port of entry for khat, after John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. USCS seized almost 5 tons of khat at Newark International Airport from October 1999 to June 2000, compared with 1,773 kilograms of khat in FY1998. Members of the Newark Airport Interdiction Task Force made several khat seizures in the first half of 2000. On April 6, 2000, law enforcement officers seized 98 kilograms of khat, shipped as hydraulic parts on a flight from London, England. The Airport Interdiction Team made two additional seizures in April 2000--227 kilograms in a controlled delivery and 117 kilograms a couple of days later. On June 7, 2000, the Air Cargo Team seized roughly 100 kilograms of khat manifested as cable and wiring from a flight out of London, England.
LSD, also known as acid, boomers, and yellow sunshines, is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perceptions. The effects of LSD are unpredictable and depend on the amount taken, the environment in which it is used, and the user's personality, mood, and expectations. Users may feel the effects within 30 to 90 minutes. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. LSD users report numbness, weakness, or trembling, and nausea is common. Two long-term disorders associated with LSD are persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (flashbacks). LSD typically is taken by mouth and is sold in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms, and in pieces of paper saturated with the drug. LSD is reportedly available in at least 9 of the 21 counties, and polydrug distribution is common in New Jersey clubs. In July 2000, police in Monmouth County arrested a 26-year-old man from Neptune for possession of LSD, marijuana, quaaludes, and Valium. On June 14, 2000, Sayreville Police Officers arrested six individuals at a local nightclub, including two juveniles, for ketamine and LSD violations.
PCP was originally developed as an intravenous anesthetic. Use of PCP in humans was discontinued in 1965 because patients who used it became agitated, delusional, and irrational. PCP, called angel dust, ozone, wack, and rocket fuel, is now illegally produced in laboratories. PCP is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in liquid and has a bitter chemical taste. It can be mixed with dyes and is available in tablets, capsules, or colored powders. PCP may be snorted, smoked, or eaten. For smoking purposes, PCP may be applied to mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana. When combined with marijuana, the mixture is called a killer joint or crystal supergrass. Local packaging, which includes envelopes stamped with brand names, can be mistaken for heroin.
PCP is addictive; its use often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. Users cite feelings of strength, power, invulnerability and a numbing effect on the mind. At low to moderate doses, physiological effects include a slight increase in respiration and a more pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Respiration becomes shallow, flushing and profuse sweating occur, and generalized numbness of the extremities and lack of muscle coordination may also occur. Psychological effects include distinct changes in body awareness similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. PCP use by adolescents may interfere with hormones related to normal growth and development and the learning process. At high doses, blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration drop. High doses can also cause seizures, coma, and sometimes death. Long-term users may suffer memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. PCP has sedative effects and when mixed with alcohol or central nervous system depressants, may lead to coma or an overdose. PCP is reportedly available in at least 18 of the 21 counties in New Jersey.
In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported that local independent distributors supply PCP, as well as GHB, LSD, and MDMA on a small scale. Because Warren County has no nightclubs, users purchase PCP at teenage parties or travel to other places to purchase the drug.
Diverted pharmaceuticals are a growing concern in high schools and on college campuses in New Jersey. College students in New Jersey, as well as nationwide, illegally use Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin (all stimulants), and most recently OxyContin (a narcotic). A 1999 study by psychiatrists at the University of Wisconsin concluded that one-fifth of college student interviewees illegally using Ritalin (methylphenidate) took it at least once and that many had experimented with other prescription drugs like Dexedrine, a stimulant. The reported increase in the illegal use of Ritalin, although anecdotal, parallels a more than eight-fold increase in the amount of methylphenidate that was manufactured between 1990 and 2000. Adderall, like Ritalin, is a drug commonly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Adderall is tempting to students because it is readily available. In February 2001, eight Gloucester County residents were arrested and charged with submitting fraudulent claims to health care providers and receiving thousands of dollars in OxyContin prescriptions. Teenagers at a South Jersey school who were ordered to undergo drug testing admitted an increasing use of OxyContin.
Many college students report using or knowing someone who used prescription drugs illegally in New Jersey. Students who use prescription drugs illegally report that the drugs help them concentrate on homework or exams, stay awake during drinking nights, or achieve a new high when mixed with other drugs. Students at Princeton University reported that Percocet is being mixed with marijuana, and then smoked.
DEA sources in New Jersey report that the Pagans OMG and Bandana members joined forces to finance distribution of diverted pharmaceuticals. However, other law enforcement sources report these two no longer work together.
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