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Connecticut Drug Threat Assessment
July 2002

Other Dangerous Drugs

Other dangerous drugs (ODDs), including the stimulant MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), the depressants GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and ketamine, the hallucinogens LSD and PCP, and the diverted pharmaceuticals alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), fentanyl (Duragesic), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and methylphenidate (Ritalin) are an increasing threat to Connecticut. Many of these dangerous drugs are distributed and abused by teenagers and young adults, sometimes in combination with cocaine and heroin, on college campuses and at raves. The threat posed by these drugs is increasing; however, they pose a lower threat than heroin, cocaine, and marijuana due to their low association with violent crime. These drugs are usually transported into the state via package delivery services, by couriers on commercial airline flights, or in private vehicles.



MDMA. Also known as Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, and X, MDMA 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 be more in touch with others and opens channels of communication. However, abuse of the drug can cause psychological problems similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse including confusion, depression, sleeplessness, 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 muscle breakdown, kidney failure, cardiovascular system failure, stroke, or seizure as reported in some fatal cases. Research suggests that MDMA abuse may result in long-term and permanent damage to parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory.

Law enforcement agencies in Connecticut report that the levels of MDMA availability and abuse are increasing, especially in urban areas such as Hartford. DEA seized 143,000 MDMA tablets in Connecticut in 1998 and over 216,000 tablets in 1999. According to the Governor's Prevention Initiative for Youth 2000 Student Survey, 4.0 percent of ninth and tenth grade students surveyed in Connecticut reported having abused MDMA within the past 30 days compared with 2.3 percent in 1997. MDMA frequently is abused in combination with other drugs at raves. In January 2001 a 23-year-old Boston male died after taking a drug cocktail containing MDMA, Percodan, and ketamine at a rave in Hartford.

Raves and the Connecticut Nuisance Abatement Program

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, which is a common side effect of using MDMA; and wave glow sticks in front of their eyes because MDMA stimulates light perception.

Connecticut instituted a Nuisance Abatement Program to stop the distribution of MDMA tablets at raves. The program gives law enforcement officials the authority to temporarily close buildings in which MDMA is distributed and abused. Once club owners prove they have corrected the problem, they are allowed to reopen the buildings. A liquor store and two dance clubs were temporarily closed in Hartford in 2001 until the owners took steps to prevent the distribution of MDMA and club drugs.

Source: Congressional Testimony to the Committee on Governmental Affairs by the Connecticut Chief State Attorney, 30 July 2001. 

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According to DEA, wholesale quantities of MDMA in Connecticut sold for $5 to $15 per tablet in the first quarter of FY2002. Retail quantities of MDMA sold for $15 to $30 per tablet in the first quarter of FY2002.

MDMA distribution and abuse are not commonly associated with violent crime in Connecticut. However, New Britain Police Department officials arrested a 25-year-old bail bondsman from New Britain in July 2001 and seized 450 MDMA tablets and small amounts of cocaine, steroids, and marijuana. Law enforcement officials also seized several guns, including two semiautomatic pistols, a 12-gauge shotgun, and two rifles--one of which was a prohibited automatic assault weapon.

Most MDMA available in Connecticut is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium; however, there is evidence that some MDMA is produced in Connecticut. In April 2001 law enforcement officials seized an MDMA laboratory in North Stonington that was capable of producing significant amounts of the drug. This MDMA laboratory was the first seized in the New England area since 1998.

Couriers commonly purchase MDMA in Europe and smuggle it from major European cities through Boston and New York City into Connecticut using package delivery services, airfreight shipments, or couriers aboard commercial airline flights. In August 2000 federal law enforcement officials arrested a Dutch male for transporting MDMA from Belgium to Logan International Airport in Boston. For 2 years he had been shipping MDMA to two residents in the New Haven area using package delivery services. In 1999 federal law enforcement officials seized 1,200 grams of MDMA from a package transported through JFK International Airport. The drugs were destined for distribution in East Haven.

MDMA also is transported into Connecticut in private vehicles. In February 2000 DEA agents seized 996 MDMA tablets and 28 dosage units of steroids concealed in luggage under the passenger seat of a four wheel drive vehicle that had stopped in Bedford, New York. The drugs had been sent from New York City and were destined for distribution in Waterbury. DEA agents have also seized MDMA tablets transported via private vehicles and package delivery services to Connecticut from Florida, Texas, and Mexico.

No group or individual dominates the wholesale distribution of MDMA in Connecticut. Teenagers and young adults purchase wholesale quantities of MDMA from New York City-based Israeli criminal groups and members of Italian Organized Crime. Russian and Dominican criminal groups, among others, also distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA in Connecticut. Teenagers and young adults dominate the retail distribution of the drug in the state. They usually sell MDMA at nightclubs, raves, and on college campuses. In August 2001 law enforcement officials arrested a 19-year-old Hartford woman and her friend for selling 500 MDMA tablets with an estimated street value of $110,000 to an undercover officer in a parking lot. The women had sold smaller quantities to officers in the past.

MDMA Distributor Arrested in Hartford

In June 2001 DEA agents arrested a Caucasian male and seized 5,000 piperazine tablets being distributed as MDMA, as well as 1,000 vials of ketamine, 9 ounces of cocaine, 8 pounds of marijuana, approximately 30,000 steroid tablets, and $30,000 in cash at a residence in Hartford. The drugs had been shipped in packages to Hartford from southwestern states.

Source: DEA Hartford Resident Office. 

Law enforcement officials seized BZP (benzylpiperazine) and piperazine being sold as MDMA in Connecticut in 2001. BZP, a legal substance used as a laxative, is also known as legal E or legal X. BZP and piperazine are licit substances that produce stimulant and hallucinogenic effects similar to MDMA.

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GHB and Analogs. Teenagers and young adults increasingly distribute and abuse GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs--GBL, BD, GHV, and GVL--at nightclubs, raves, and on college campuses in Connecticut. 

GHB analogs are drugs that possess chemical structures that closely resemble GHB, a central nervous system depressant. GHB and its analogs are also known as liquid ecstasy, soap, scoop, Georgia homeboy, grievous bodily harm, liquid x, and goop. At lower doses they cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and visual disturbances. At higher doses, unconsciousness, seizure, severe respiratory depression, and coma can occur. A Connecticut resident died after combining GHB with alcohol while partying with friends in April 1999. Because of their sedative properties, GHB and its analogs also have been used to facilitate sexual assaults throughout the nation.

GHB Analogs

Analog Chemical/Alternative Name
furanone di-hydro
1,4 butanediol
tetramethylene glycol
butylene glycol

According to DEA, GHB sold for $5 to $10 per dosage unit in Connecticut in the first quarter of FY2002. There are no reports that GHB is produced in Connecticut, but law enforcement officials report that GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a precursor used to produce GHB, has been purchased over the Internet.

Three Teens Almost Die After Ingesting GHB

Three Ridgefield High School students added GHB to their drinks at a diner and then consumed additional quantities of GHB mixed with soda before going home from a high school celebration in June 1999. The driver passed out in the driveway of a recreational area, and two of the other teens lost consciousness. All three had seizures and vomited. A fourth teenager called for help, and paramedics were able to save the teens. One, however, remained in a coma for 2 days before awakening with short-term memory damage.

Source: Ridgefield Police Department. 



GBL is touted as a muscle-building supplement and as an aid to enhance sexual experiences. Once ingested, GBL is converted into GHB and, consequently, has the same effects as GHB. On January 21, 1999, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about food supplement products that contain GBL and requested that manufacturers recall all products containing the additive. Despite the FDA warning, GBL is sold as both a powder and liquid at gyms, fitness centers, and some health food stores.

Source: DEA, Newark Division, Trends in the Traffic Third Quarter FY1999.  

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Ketamine. The distribution and abuse of ketamine are increasing in Connecticut. Ketamine, also known as K, special K, vitamin K, and cat valium, is an injectable anesthetic that is approved for both human and animal use. Ketamine is sold commercially and is produced as a liquid and powder. As a liquid, ketamine is injected intramuscularly. Liquid ketamine can be boiled to convert it to powder, which may be put into capsules. As a powder, ketamine can be mistaken for cocaine or methamphetamine and is often snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products.

Low-dose intoxication from ketamine may result in impaired attention, learning disability, dissociation--which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences--and hallucinations. High doses of ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine gained popularity among abusers in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP abuse. Ketamine abusers in the United States and the United Kingdom have reported incidents similar to bad LSD trips. Some abusers have jumped from moving vehicles or have tried to fly.

Ketamine commonly is shipped via package delivery services. In 2001 the DEA Bridgeport Resident Office reported that significant amounts of ketamine were smuggled from Mexico through Texas into Connecticut via package delivery services. An individual in Connecticut received 5 to 10 cases of liquid ketamine each month and distributed the drug to several other individuals who then sold it to abusers in Connecticut.

Ketamine usually is distributed and abused at nightclubs, raves, and on college campuses in Connecticut. Law enforcement officials in Bridgeport seized a total of 130 grams of ketamine on a college campus in 2001.

Ketamine prices generally are stable. According to DEA, ketamine sold for $40 per dose (about 0.2 grams) in the Hartford area in the first quarter of FY2002. The drug is not produced in Connecticut, but is diverted from legitimate sources in Connecticut, such as veterinary clinics.

Connecticut Males Supply Ketamine to New York Students

In August 2001 three men from Connecticut were arrested for supplying students at a White Plains, New York, high school with ketamine and MDMA. Over 150 small bottles of ketamine and 1,600 MDMA tablets with an estimated street value of over $100,000 were seized.

Source: Associated Press, 26 August 2001. 

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LSD. Commonly known as acid, boomer, and yellow sunshine, LSD is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perceptions. The effects of LSD are unpredictable depending upon the amount taken, the environment in which it is used, and the personality, mood, and expectation of the abuser. Abusers may feel the effects for up to 12 hours. The physical effects include dilated pupils, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, nausea, numbness, weakness, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. Two long-term disorders associated with LSD are persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (flashbacks). LSD typically is taken orally.

LSD is commonly available in Connecticut and is popular among teenagers and young adults. It is usually distributed and abused at nightclubs, raves, and on college campuses. According to the Governor's Prevention Initiative for Youth 2000 Student Survey, 8.8 percent of ninth and tenth grade students surveyed reported having abused hallucinogens, including LSD, at least once in their lifetime. LSD is available in blotter form in Connecticut in both wholesale and retail quantities. In the first quarter of FY2002, DEA reported that LSD sold for $50 to $150 for 100 dosage units and $3 to $5 for a single dosage unit. LSD typically is not produced in Connecticut, and DEA reports that most LSD is transported from California and New York City into Connecticut.

PCP. Use of PCP as an intravenous anesthetic in humans was discontinued in 1965 because patients who were given the drug became agitated, delusional, and irrational. PCP, also known as angel dust, ozone, wack, and rocket fuel, is now produced illegally in laboratories in the United States. PCP is a white, crystalline powder that is soluble in liquids and has a bitter taste. The drug can be mixed with dye and is available as a tablet, capsule, or colored powder. PCP may be snorted, smoked, or ingested. 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, among others. According to DEA, PCP in Connecticut is sprayed on crushed mint leaves and marijuana, which is then smoked.

PCP is addictive; its abuse often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. Abusers 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 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 that are similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. At high doses, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rates drop. High doses can also cause seizures, coma, and sometimes death. PCP has sedative effects and, when mixed with alcohol or central nervous system depressants, may result in an overdose or coma. Abusers who consume significant quantities of PCP over a long period of time may suffer memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. PCP abuse by adolescents may interfere with hormones related to normal growth and development and the learning process.

Teenagers and young adults in Connecticut abuse PCP. According to the Governor's Prevention Initiative for Youth 2000 Student Survey, 4.0 percent of ninth and tenth grade students surveyed in Connecticut reported having abused PCP in the 30 days prior to the survey compared with 1.3 percent in 1997.

PCP is available in limited quantities in Connecticut and is often distributed in lower-income housing areas at individual residences commonly called wet spots. According to DEA, a bag containing 0.25 grams of PCP sold for $25 in the New Haven area in the first quarter of FY2002. PCP available in Connecticut is usually transported from California. The DEA New Haven Resident Office reports that African American criminal groups are the primary distributors of PCP.

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Diverted Pharmaceuticals

The diversion and abuse of pharmaceuticals pose a serious and growing threat to Connecticut. Members of various socioeconomic classes, races, and age groups abuse pharmaceuticals in Connecticut. According to the DEA Hartford Resident Office, fentanyl (Duragesic), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), methylphenidate (Ritalin), diazepam (Valium), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and alprazolam (Xanax) are the most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in Connecticut. The diversion and abuse of oxycodone products--especially OxyContin but also Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox--are increasing threats to Connecticut. Law enforcement officials report that OxyContin is being sold illegally in Connecticut for $1 per milligram. According to DEA, Percocet sold for $6 to $8 per tablet in Hartford in the first quarter of FY2002.

The most frequent means of diverting pharmaceuticals are prescription fraud, the sale of prescriptions by unscrupulous medical professionals, theft, and doctor shopping. Doctor shopping occurs when individuals who may or may not have a legitimate ailment visit numerous physicians to obtain drugs in excess of what should be prescribed for the individual. In May 2001 a 37-year-old male tried to use a forged prescription to purchase OxyContin from a pharmacy in Glastonbury. In July 2001 another man altered a prescription in an attempt to purchase OxyContin from the same pharmacy. In July 2001 a physician was charged in Bridgeport with illegally prescribing OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and other drugs. According to Waterbury law enforcement officials, a local pharmacy technician diverted over 7,000 OxyContin tablets in various strengths during a 2-year period. This individual then sold the diverted drugs to a local drug dealer.

Physician Arrested in Darvon Overdose

The East Haven Police Department arrested a New Haven doctor for manslaughter in the death of a 22-year-old patient in May 2001. The doctor overprescribed Darvon, Percocet, and Xanax to the patient by postdating prescriptions.

Source: East Haven Police Department. 


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