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Delaware Drug Threat Assessment
March 2002


MDMA poses a growing threat to Delaware. MDMA is increasingly available and abused by teenagers and young adults. The quantity of MDMA seized in Delaware has increased dramatically from 1999 through 2000. Local independent Caucasian dealers, usually college students, purchase MDMA tablets from criminal groups based in Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and distribute the drug at raves, house parties, bars, and on college campuses. In January 2002 the State Assembly passed a law making trafficking in MDMA, a crime, with mandatory minimum sentences.


MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, or X, is a stimulant and low level hallucinogen. MDMA was patented in 1914 in Germany where it 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. Abusers claim that MDMA, sometimes called the hug drug, helps them become more "in touch" with others and "opens channels of communication." However, abuse of the drug can cause psychological difficulties similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, and paranoia. The physical effects can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA abuse can also cause a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscular breakdown, kidney failure, cardiovascular failure, stroke, or seizure. Research suggests MDMA abuse may result in long-term and sometimes permanent damage to parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory.

The level of abuse of MDMA, particularly among teenagers and young adults, is increasing in Delaware. Once abused only in college towns such as Wilmington and Newark, MDMA is now abused in smaller towns such as Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, according to local and state law enforcement data.



The amount of MDMA available in Delaware has increased dramatically since 1999. The quantity of MDMA seized in Wilmington increased from none in 1999 to 1,700 dosage units in 2000. One hundred MDMA tablets sold for $1,000 to $1,800 in 2000, and single tablets sold for $20 to $25, depending on location.

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MDMA distribution usually is not associated with violence, although the possibility for violence does exist. According to local law enforcement officials, most dealers and abusers are college students who are ignorant of the seriousness of their activity. Most MDMA distributors arrested by law enforcement are not armed. The Delaware State Police, however, reports that if criminal groups that distribute other major drugs take over the distribution of MDMA in Delaware, the level of violence might increase.



Laboratory operators in the Netherlands and Belgium produce approximately 80 percent of the MDMA consumed worldwide. According to DEA, law enforcement officials have seized MDMA laboratories in other European countries and, occasionally, in the United States, but never in Delaware. Israeli and Russian DTOs control a significant share of the distribution of MDMA in Europe; Israeli DTOs are the primary suppliers of MDMA to U.S. distribution groups.



Israeli and Russian DTOs smuggle multikilogram quantities of MDMA tablets into the United States by air, concealed in couriers' luggage and in express mail packages. They repackage the tablets into bundles for retail distribution. Local independent dealers, some of whom are Caucasian college students, are the primary retail distributors in Delaware. They purchase MDMA from criminal groups in Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities and transport the MDMA to Delaware in private vehicles. In March 2000 Delaware State Police arrested several individuals for transporting and distributing MDMA on local college campuses and at bars.



Local independent dealers usually distribute MDMA at raves, house parties, college campuses, and bars. College students from smaller cities such as Milford are frequently the primary MDMA distributors in those areas. These students return home for spring and summer breaks, purchase MDMA tablets in the larger cities of Wilmington, Dover, and Newark, and distribute the drugs in Delaware's smaller cities.


Throughout the 1990s high energy, all-night dances known as raves, which feature hard-pounding techno-music and flashing laser lights, increased in popularity among teenagers and young adults. Raves occur in most metropolitan areas of the country. They can be held at either permanent dance clubs or temporary "weekend event" sites set up in abandoned warehouses, open fields, empty buildings, or civic centers. Club drugs are a group of synthetic drugs often sold at raves and dance clubs. MDMA is one of the most popular club drugs. Rave managers often sell water, pacifiers, and glow sticks at rave parties. "Ravers" require water to offset dehydration caused by MDMA, use pacifiers to prevent the grinding of teeth--a common side effect of abusing MDMA--and wave glow sticks in front of their eyes because MDMA stimulates light perception.


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