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Minnesota Drug Threat Assessment
Other Dangerous Drugs
The other dangerous drugs category includes club drugs, hallucinogens, khat, a stimulant primarily used by the ethnic Somali community, and pharmaceuticals. Club drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people in urban areas and in college towns. Nightclubs and "rave" parties are the primary retail distribution outlets, although many of these drugs are increasingly being distributed in other environments.
Diverted pharmaceuticals are a continuing problem throughout much of the state. Forged prescriptions and theft are the most common means of illegally obtaining prescription drugs. Some of the most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in Minnesota are Darvocet, methadone, Percocet, Ritalin, Valium, and Vicodin.
Club or designer drugs are general terms for synthetic drugs that have become popular with teenagers and young adults who frequent nightclubs and raves. These drugs include MDMA, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), GHB, and GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) and Rohypnol.
The popularity of these drugs has increased in large part because their hallucinogenic and stimulating effects enhance the rave experience. There is little specific information on club drugs in Minnesota. Many users are experimenting with a variety of club drugs and with club drugs in combination with other drugs such as heroin--an extremely dangerous combination.
MDMA is both a stimulant and hallucinogen. MDMA's effect usually lasts from 4 to 6 hours, although varying from person to person. If taken in pill or capsule form, the onset of the effect takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes; if snorted, smoked, or injected, the effect is felt more quickly. Immediate physical reactions include increased heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure as well as nausea and cramping. The full effect is usually attained within an hour after ingestion and includes feelings of well-being and euphoria, as well as anxiety or paranoia.
MDMA taken in high doses can be extremely dangerous. It can cause a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. MDMA use may lead to heart attack, stroke, and seizures 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 critical to thought and memory. There is also evidence that individuals who develop a rash after using MDMA may suffer severe liver damage or other serious side effects. There were five MDMA-related deaths in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in 2000.
GHB and Rohypnol are often referred to as date rape drugs. They are powerful sedatives and have become a significant problem, particularly on college campuses. GHB is a central nervous system depressant that has been approved in some countries for use as an anesthetic. It is unlawful to produce or distribute GHB in the United States, but recipes and do-it-yourself kits are available on several Internet sites. Because GHB is odorless and colorless, it is virtually undetectable when mixed in beverages. The manufacturer of Rohypnol now adds a blue dye that is detectable in drinks, which may explain why use of Rohypnol is decreasing and use of GHB is increasing. When even small amounts of these drugs are mixed with alcohol, the victim loses consciousness for several hours. Teenagers and young adults attending rave parties take these drugs to lessen the crash associated with coming down from other drugs. There have been over 5,700 overdoses and 58 deaths associated with GHB in the United States and Canada since 1990. GHB and two closely related drugs, GBL and BD (1,4-butanediol) are growing in popularity in Minnesota. Emergency rooms in Minneapolis/St. Paul reported treating up to five GHB-related overdoses per month in 1999. The Hennepin County Medical Center reports treating about one BD overdose a week in 2000. In April 2000, two men from Farmington were hospitalized after overdosing on GBL.
The abuse of LSD appears to be increasing at least in Minneapolis/St. Paul. LSD-associated DAWN ED mentions rose from 51 in 1998 to 64 in 1999. However, this is still well below the 116 mentions in 1995. Of those in which gender and race were reported, 77 percent were Caucasian males and the remainder were Caucasian females. In 1999, 54 percent were Caucasian males, 30 percent were Caucasian females, and 12 percent were African American males. LSD potency, currently between 20 and 80 micrograms per dosage unit, is significantly lower today than it was in the 1960s when dosages were 100 to 300 micrograms. LSD users experience hallucinations, confusion, suspicion, and anxiety. Flashbacks can occur after a user has stopped taking the drug.
Khat is a stimulant and contains two scheduled substances, cathinone and cathine. Cathinone is a Schedule I drug and is present only in the fresh leaves of a flowering shrub indigenous to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Cathinone converts to the considerably less potent cathine in about 48 hours. Most users chew the leaves, though they sometimes smoke khat or brew it in tea.
Individuals in all age brackets abuse diverted prescription drugs, but increases in abuse among youth and young adults pose the greatest concern. Pharmaceuticals, which are generally perceived as harmless, are becoming more popular among young people. Most young abusers will take any available pharmaceutical, without knowing exactly what it is.
The availability of club drugs in Minnesota is increasing, particularly in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Law enforcement officials seized about 30,000 MDMA pills in the first half of 2000. The largest single seizure was 1,000 pills, seized by the Anoka-Hennepin Drug Task Force. There were eight MDMA submissions, totaling 2,500 grams, to the St. Paul crime laboratory in the first half of 2000. This compares with 2.9 grams submitted in 1999, 0 in 1998, and 6.9 in 1997. GHB and related solvents GBL and BD are also appearing more frequently in Minnesota. GHB and BD are sold as nutritional supplements and industrial solvents and are widely available from Internet sites. In March 2000, law enforcement officers arrested a Woodbury man in possession of over 4,000 doses of GBL.
LSD availability appears to be increasing. State drug task forces seized 5,328 dosage units in 1999, an increase of nearly 14 percent over 1998, and the most since 1996. Task force LSD arrests increased from 44 in 1998 to 73 in 1999. LSD is primarily sold as blotter acid, but the Butler Center for Research reports that LSD on soda crackers was sold in the Minneapolis area for the first time in 2000.
Khat first appeared in Minnesota in 1997, and its use has become more common as the Somali population has increased to an estimated 15,000. Khat is primarily consumed by ethnic Somali communities in the state, most of which are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The Minneapolis Police Department reports the appearance of its use in the general community. An average bundle of khat, containing 25 to 30 stems, sells for $40 to $50 and represents a day's supply.
Forged prescriptions and theft are the most common methods used to obtain pharmaceuticals illegally. Patients will often steal a doctor's prescription pad and forge prescriptions. Unscrupulous physicians write prescriptions for fictitious patients, send them to a local pharmacy, then pick up the prescriptions themselves. Prescription drugs are also stolen from pharmacies and medical facilities. According to law enforcement sources, healthcare workers are responsible for most pharmaceutical thefts from medical facilities.
With the exception of the date rape drugs, particularly GHB, club drugs are not normally associated with violent crime. There are no known documented cases of the use of GHB as a date rape drug in Minnesota, but cases have been documented in Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Seattle. It is odorless, tasteless, and virtually undetectable if slipped into a drink. Medical and law enforcement experts say victims can lose consciousness within 20 minutes of ingesting GHB and often have no memory of following events. It is difficult to trace, usually leaving the body within 24 hours.
The production of club drugs occurs in the United States and foreign countries. According to DEA, at least 80 percent of all the MDMA in the world is produced in laboratories in western Europe, primarily in the Netherlands and Belgium. MDMA is pressed into pill form with a variety of recognizable logos such as the Mitsubishi three diamonds or the Nike swoosh to identify various brands. MDMA submissions to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's Forensic Science Laboratory in 1999 included logos bearing Smurf, butterfly, panda bear, LOVE, 007, and the numeral "1" with 3 stars. LSD typically has been produced in laboratories in northern California. There are no known incidents of LSD production in Minnesota.
Most MDMA is transported to Minnesota from the Netherlands and Belgium by mail. Federal law enforcement officials seized 1,500 kilograms of MDMA linked to these countries in 1999. Nearly one-third of the MDMA seized was being smuggled in mail parcels. Of this amount, 1 to 2 percent was destined for Minnesota according to the DEA. Minnesota's largest seizure (19,000 pills) occurred in November 1999 when USCS officials at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport intercepted a mail parcel originating in Amsterdam.
Nationally, the USCS seized 49,000 pounds of khat in FY1999. At the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, USCS seized 1,057 pounds in FY1998 and 522 pounds in FY1999. Police in Rochester seized about 150 pounds of khat at the Rochester International Airport in January 2000.
Israeli and Russian organized crime syndicates supplied by Western European producers have become the primary wholesale distributors of MDMA in the United States. These criminal groups work closely with Israeli and Russian midlevel wholesale distributors in large metropolitan areas in the United States. GHB is usually distributed locally by young Caucasian males who produce it. Licit production of GHB occurs only in Europe.
The widespread publication of recipes and the ease with which precursor chemicals can be obtained make the production of GHB an increasing problem. Only two chemicals, GBL and sodium hydroxide, are needed to produce GHB. Most illegally produced GHB is in liquid form. The powdered form of GHB is much more difficult to synthesize, and it is usually converted into a powder only when it is commercially manufactured.
Nationally, nightclubs and rave parties are the primary retail distribution outlets for MDMA and other club drugs. Retail dealers are typically suburban Caucasian teenagers who are involved in the rave scene. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, there are indications that Asian criminal groups are becoming the primary distributors of MDMA. The St. Paul Police Department reports that Vietnamese street gangs are distributing MDMA obtained from California in St. Paul. The FBI and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department report that some Asians are selling MDMA at the retail level. In February 2001, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department arrested two young Asian males and seized about 3,000 MDMA pills from a St. Paul apartment.
Pharmaceuticals are not normally distributed in the same manner as
other illicit drugs; in fact, most are consumed by the same individuals
responsible for diverting the drugs. However, there are known instances of
illegally obtained prescription drugs being retailed in the state.
Individuals on methadone maintenance programs sometimes sell their daily
dosage immediately after receiving it. Teenagers and young adults often
distribute stolen prescription drugs at raves and other venues. Dishonest
healthcare providers sell stolen pharmaceuticals to addicts and other
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