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District of Columbia Drug Threat Assessment
January 2002


Powdered and crack cocaine will continue to represent the most significant drug threat to D.C. The situation is not likely to change in the near future because of the strong market. D.C. crews have a long history of violence associated with crack distribution that will continue to threaten the safety and security of those that live and work in the District. Mexican criminal groups in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. have recently started to distribute cocaine, a situation that could lead to even more turf wars. Most OCDETF investigations, treatment admissions, and deaths in the District have historically been related to the distribution or abuse of cocaine, and that situation is likely to continue.

Heroin purity will increase. As a result, the drug will continue to appeal to new, younger drug abusers. The number of older heroin abusers who inject the drug will likely remain stable. Many abusers have historically abused heroin and other drugs at the same time, and younger abusers have recently started to combine heroin with marijuana and sedative hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines.

Numerous criminal groups and independent dealers throughout D.C. distribute marijuana, and that trend is likely to continue since demand for the drug is high. However, recently enacted marijuana legislation may encourage those who distribute marijuana to deal in smaller quantities than they had previously to reduce their chances of lengthy prison sentences if caught.

Methamphetamine is available in limited quantities in D.C., and abuse levels are not likely to escalate in the near future to the same levels of other major drugs. Methamphetamine is usually sold at raves--where violence is rare--and is distributed in conjunction with numerous other club drugs, many of which are more popular among younger abusers.

ODDs, such as MDMA and ketamine, will continue to gain in popularity in D.C., particularly among teenagers and young adults that attend raves where the drugs are increasingly accessible. Abusers frequently mix ODDs with other drugs, which will likely cause additional health consequences and overdoses.

Diverted pharmaceuticals, especially OxyContin, are an emerging drug threat in the District. D.C. is now considered a distribution center. Local pain clinics have reportedly abused their prescription-writing authority in the District. Law enforcement officials are not likely to focus on diverted pharmaceuticals in D.C. because of the large number of crack, heroin, and marijuana distributors that are frequently associated with violent crimes.

Law enforcement officials report that polydrug abuse is common in D.C., and will likely increase and pose long-term consequences. Healthcare and other treatment providers are likely to experience complications related to the care and treatment of abusers who may have symptoms from drugs that interact and render current medical treatments ineffective.

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