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District of Columbia Drug Threat Assessment
Publication Date: January 2002
Updated: May 2003
Document ID: 2002-S0379DC-001
Archived on: January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.
This report is a strategic assessment that addresses the status and outlook of the drug threat to the District of Columbia. Analytical judgment determined the threat posed by each drug type or category, taking into account the most current quantitative and qualitative information on availability, demand, production or cultivation, transportation, and distribution, as well as the effects of a particular drug on abusers and society as a whole. While NDIC sought to incorporate the latest available information, a time lag often exists between collection and publication of data, particularly demand-related data sets. NDIC anticipates that this drug threat assessment will be useful to policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and treatment providers at the federal, state, and local levels because it draws upon a broad range of information sources to describe and analyze the drug threat to the District of Columbia.
Your questions, comments, and suggestions for future subjects are welcome at any time. Addresses are provided at the end of the page.
Other Dangerous Drugs
List of Tables
Table 1. Cocaine-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, District of Columbia, 1994-1999
Table 2. Cocaine-Related Emergency Department Mentions and Mentions Per 100,000, District of Columbia, 1995-2000
Table 3. Cocaine Seizures in Kilograms, District of Columbia, FY1995-FY2000
Table 4. Heroin-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, District of Columbia, 1994-1999
Table 5. Heroin-Related Emergency Department Mentions and Mentions Per 100,000, District of Columbia, 1995-2000
Table 6. Heroin Seizures, District of Columbia, FY1995-FY2000
Table 7. Marijuana-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, District of Columbia, 1994-1999
Table 8. Marijuana/Hashish-Related Emergency Department Mentions and Mentions Per 100,000, District of Columbia, 1995-2000
Table 9. Marijuana Seizures, District of Columbia, FY1995-FY2000
The distribution and abuse of illegal drugs pose a serious threat to the safety and security of individuals who live and work in the District of Columbia (D.C.). The District has a high homicide rate, and many of the killings are drug-related. Approximately 60,000 drug abusers reside in D.C.--over 10 percent of the population--resulting in higher treatment-related costs per capita than any state in the nation.
Cocaine, particularly crack, represents the most serious drug threat to the District. Cocaine abuse is associated with more drug treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities, emergency department mentions, and deaths than is abuse of any other drug. Cocaine is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Approximately 75 percent of all federal drug sentences in D.C. are crack-related, and about 9 percent are powdered cocaine-related. Additionally, most Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigations are cocaine-related. Colombia-based drug trafficking organizations are the primary sources supplying D.C.-based criminal groups, frequently Colombian and Dominican, with wholesale quantities of cocaine. These criminal groups and other less dominant groups then supply neighborhood-based crews (a term frequently used to describe gangs in D.C.), typically African American or to a much lesser extent Hispanic, with smaller quantities of powdered and crack cocaine. The crews usually distribute the cocaine at open-air markets. Retail distribution networks are well established in neighborhoods, public housing projects, and on street corners.
Heroin, primarily South American, represents a growing threat to D.C. because the number of abusers is high and continues to increase. Long-term heroin abusers who inject the drug continue to purchase low-purity heroin. However, high-purity heroin is purchased, particularly in Northwest D.C., by a predominantly younger and more suburban abuser population from Virginia and Maryland that snorts the drug. Heroin is often abused in combination with other drugs. Colombian drug trafficking organizations are the dominant wholesale suppliers of South American heroin to D.C.-based criminal groups, typically Colombian and Dominican. Nigerian and other West African criminal groups typically supply wholesale quantities of Southeast Asian heroin to other Nigerian and West African criminal groups based in the District. Pakistani, Nigerian, and other criminal groups usually supply Southwest Asian heroin to other Pakistani and Nigerian criminal groups in D.C. Mexican heroin is only sporadically available. Mexican criminal groups are the primary black tar and brown powdered heroin distributors at the wholesale and retail levels. African American and Hispanic crews are the dominant retail heroin distributors of South American, Southeast Asian, and Southwest Asian heroin.
Marijuana is the most readily available, least expensive, and widely abused illicit drug in D.C. However, the drug poses a lower threat than cocaine or heroin because the District had no deaths in 1999 related to marijuana abuse, and abuse is not frequently associated with violent crime. Most of the marijuana available in D.C. is supplied from areas including Arizona, Southern California, Texas, Jamaica, and Mexico and transported to the District. However, smaller quantities are produced locally, mostly at indoor locations. Jamaican and Mexican criminal groups are the dominant wholesale distributors of marijuana in the District. Crews, many with a propensity toward violence, distribute retail quantities of marijuana as do many criminal groups and independent dealers. Legislation enacted in June 2001 makes penalties for possession and distribution of marijuana much more severe than in the past.
Methamphetamine is increasingly available and abused, but is not yet a serious problem in the District. Methamphetamine is less often abused than cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. Law enforcement officials in the District seize gram and ounce quantities much more frequently than pound quantities. Most methamphetamine available in D.C. is produced in southwestern states using the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method; however, methamphetamine produced using the phenyl-2-propanone method is also available. Most methamphetamine transported to and seized in D.C. is destined for distribution in surrounding states. Wholesale distribution of methamphetamine in D.C. is limited and is usually controlled by Mexican criminal groups and, to a lesser extent, Asian, Colombian, and Middle Eastern criminal groups. Various groups distribute methamphetamine at the retail level in the District, including teenagers and young adults who distribute the drug at raves and nightclubs.
Other dangerous drugs are a growing threat to the District and include the club drugs MDMA, GHB, and ketamine; the hallucinogens LSD and PCP; the stimulant khat; and diverted pharmaceuticals. Many ODDs are sold by middle-class, suburban teenagers at raves, nightclubs, and on college campuses. MDMA is easily accessible, increasingly available, and associated with an increasing level of violent crime. Diversion of sedative hypnotics such as Xanax and Valium (both benzodiazepines); narcotics such as methadone, Dilaudid, Percocet, Percodan, and most recently OxyContin; and other prescription drugs is a developing threat. Law enforcement officials report that diversion of pharmaceuticals is a lucrative business.
National Drug Intelligence Center
319 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Johnstown, PA 15901
Tel. (814) 532-4601
FAX (814) 532-4690
National Drug Intelligence Center
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean, VA 22102-3840
Tel. (703) 556-8970
FAX (703) 556-7807
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