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National Drug Threat Assessment 2004
Publication Date: June 2004
Document ID: 2004-Q0317-008
Archived on: January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.
This report summarizes the findings of the National Drug Threat Assessment 2004. Topics covered include new developments and continuing trends; primary drugs; borders, POEs, and corridors; and outlook, indicators, and warnings.
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List of Figures
Figure 1. Chart Illustrating a 143
Percent Increase in Heroin Seizures Involving Federal Law
Map 1. 6 Regional Areas of Analytical
List of Tables
Table 1. Cocaine: Primary Market
Areas, Market Domination and Secondary Markets.
New Developments and Continuing Trends
Illicit drugs--including the drug trade's vast revenues and sophisticated smuggling and transportation infrastructure--remain a direct threat to the United States and its interests. Further, major drug trafficking organizations (DTOs)--headquartered in Mexico and Colombia--and U.S. street gangs pose a grave and evolving threat to the national security of the United States and the hemisphere.
In 2001, 21,683 people died in the United States from licit and illicit drug abuse. In 2000, an estimated $64 billion changed hands in the United States for illicit drugs, and the societal costs of drug abuse were projected at $181 billion in 2002. Further, there is mounting evidence that the global drug trade helps to finance many of the world's terrorist organizations and their activities.
The National Drug Threat Assessment 2004 indicates that in 2002 an estimated 35.1 million persons aged 12 and older reported using an illicit drug in the last year. Hospital emergency rooms recorded 1.2 million drug mentions. Other new and continuing trends were identified nationally and in six geographic regions (as shown on the 6 Regional Areas of Analytical Coverage Map).
Adult cocaine use stable at high levels; adolescent use trending downward: Adult cocaine use is relatively stable at high levels, according to Monitoring the Future (MTF) data. The rates of past year use for powder cocaine remained unchanged from 2002 to 2003 for eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders. Crack use among tenth graders declined significantly from 2.3 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2003. The estimated number of cocaine-related emergency department (ED) mentions increased from 193,034 in 2001 to 199,198 in 2002, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
Mexican groups dominate wholesale cocaine distribution; gangs dominate retail distribution: Mexican criminal groups control most wholesale cocaine distribution in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southwest, and West Central regions and are increasing their wholesale supplies to Dominican criminal groups in New York City. Colombian criminal groups, however, control most wholesale cocaine distribution in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. At the retail level, African American and Hispanic gangs are the predominant retail distributors of both powder and crack cocaine in every region. Other retail distributors of powder cocaine include Mexican criminal groups in the Great Lakes, Southwest, Pacific, and West Central regions and Dominican, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican criminal groups in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.
Use among most age groups trending downward; consequences of use trending upward: According to MTF, past year methamphetamine use among young adults declined, although not significantly, from 2001 (2.8%) to 2002 (2.5%). According to DAWN, the estimated number of ED mentions for methamphetamine increased steadily from 10,447 in 1999 to 17,696 in 2002. Likewise, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) data show that the number of methamphetamine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities increased from 58,777 in 1999 to 66,052 in 2000 (the latest year for which such data are available).
Distribution expanding eastward, largely controlled by Mexican wholesalers: Methamphetamine distribution is widespread in the Pacific, Southwest, and West Central regions, is increasing in the Great Lakes and Southeast regions, and is limited but rising in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region. Mexican traffickers control most wholesale distribution in western and southwestern states and supply methamphetamine to Caucasian midlevel distributors in the West Central, Great Lakes, and Southeast regions. OMGs and street gang members distribute methamphetamine, particularly in the Great Lakes, Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast.
Increasing lab seizures signal rise in U.S. production; possible increase in Mexico: Domestic methamphetamine production appears to be increasing. The number of reported methamphetamine laboratory seizures increased overall from 2002 to 2003, while the number of reported seizures of high capacity superlabs appears to have remained stable. The number of reported laboratory seizures increased from 9,188 in 2002 to 9,815 in 2003. During that same period, the number of reported superlab seizures remained almost unchanged from 2002 (145) to 2003 (143). Law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine production in Mexico--the source of most foreign-produced methamphetamine in the United States--is significant and may be increasing. Preliminary estimates by an Availability Working Group indicate that the amount of domestically produced uncut methamphetamine available in the United States in 2001 ranged from 98.3 to 131.2 metric tons; estimates for Mexico-produced uncut methamphetamine available in the United States ranged from 9.2 to 13.9 metric tons in 2001.
Production on National Forest System (NFS) lands increasing: Methamphetamine production appears to be increasing on NFS lands. Despite decreases in the amount of methamphetamine and the number of dumpsites seized on NFS lands between 2001 and 2002, the number of clandestine laboratories surged from 102 to 187. U.S. land management agencies also warn of environmental damage to public lands and dangers to both tourists and officials posed by booby traps and armed workers at methamphetamine and marijuana production sites.
Mexican groups rely on Canada-sourced precursors for domestic production: Mexican criminal groups typically produce methamphetamine in the United States using bulk quantities of pseudoephedrine acquired from U.S.-based Middle Eastern criminal groups that obtain the precursors in Canada. Mexican criminal groups also produce methamphetamine in Mexico and, to a lesser extent, in the United States, using ephedrine often produced in China. Independent producers acquire ephedrine and pseudoephedrine through the purchase or theft of over-the-counter medications.1
Mexican traffickers transport methamphetamine nationwide: Mexican traffickers transport the methamphetamine that they produce in Mexico and California to markets nationwide. OMGs and independent producers transport methamphetamine that they produce, primarily in California and the Central States, as well as methamphetamine supplied by Mexican sources in California.
Rates of past year marijuana use highest among college students aged 19-22: According to 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data, more than 25 million persons aged 12 or older reported using marijuana in the past year (11% of the U.S. population over age 12). MTF data show that among adult marijuana users, rates of past year marijuana use are highest among young adults aged 19 to 22. Also according to MTF data, among adolescents, the rates of past year marijuana use in 2002 and 2003 decreased significantly from 14.6 percent to 12.8 percent for eighth graders. Rates of use for tenth and twelfth graders trended downward, but changes were not significant.
California and Mexico appear to supply most marijuana; widespread cultivation on U.S. public lands, especially in California: While cannabis is cultivated in every state, California, Kentucky, Tennessee, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) are the primary domestic source areas. Marijuana produced in Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and Jamaica also supplies U.S. markets nationwide. Cannabis cultivation, especially on public lands, is widespread. NFS lands in California accounted for more than two-thirds of cannabis plants eradicated from NFS lands in 2001 (495,536 of 719,985) and 2002 (420,866 of 597,797). Further, 8 of the 10 leading national forests for plant eradication in 2002 were in California. Cleveland National Forest in California and Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky are among the leading national forests for eradication.
Mexican traffickers control transportation of wholesale marijuana: Most foreign-produced marijuana available in the United States is transported overland across the U.S.-Mexico border by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups. Colombian DTOs, Asian and Jamaican criminal groups, and Canada-based OMGs also smuggle marijuana into the United States. Within the United States, Mexican traffickers control the transportation of the wholesale marijuana that they produce in both Mexico and the United States. Other marijuana transporters within the country include U.S.- and Canada-based OMGs, Asian and Jamaican criminal groups, and local independent growers and dealers.
Heroin demand lower than for other major drugs: The overall demand for heroin in the United States is lower than demand for other major drugs of abuse, and rates of use appear to be trending downward for most age groups. MTF data show that rates of heroin use among college students (aged 19 to 22) and young adults (19 to 28) declined from 2001 to 2002, although the decline was significant only for young adults. MTF data also show that from 2002 to 2003, rates of heroin use among adolescents remained unchanged among eighth graders, declined significantly among tenth graders, and declined among twelfth graders, but not significantly. The nationwide heroin-related ED mentions remained statistically unchanged from 2001 to 2002, according to DAWN.
Heroin expanding in suburban and rural areas of Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: Heroin availability and distribution are rising in many suburban and rural areas, particularly in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region of the country.2 South American heroin is the primary type available in the eastern United States, and Mexican heroin--primarily black tar and brown powder--is the primary type available in the western United States. Colombian and Mexican traffickers as well as Dominican, Nigerian, and Asian criminal groups are the primary heroin wholesalers in the country. For the fourth consecutive year, heroin seizures by federal agencies increased. Most recently, 2,521 kilograms were seized in 2001 and 2,799 kilograms in 2002.
Readily available nationwide: MDMA is available in every region, and law enforcement reporting indicates increasing availability. Conversely, seizure, case, and arrest information indicates stable to slightly decreasing availability overall. The number of MDMA dosage units seized by federal agencies decreased sharply from 4,639,540 dosage units in 2001 to 3,495,960 dosage units in 2002.
Demand for MDMA high, but trending downward, particularly among adolescents: MDMA use among adults appears to be highest among young adults. However, MTF data for 2002 and 2003 show that rates of past year MDMA use decreased significantly for eighth graders (2.9% to 2.1%), tenth graders (4.9% to 3.0%), and twelfth graders (7.4% to 4.5%). Further, MTF data also reveal that the percentage of eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students who believe that individuals place themselves at great risk by using MDMA once or twice is increasing. The estimated number of ED mentions for MDMA decreased sharply from 5,542 in 2001 to 4,026 in 2002.
Most MDMA available in the United States is produced in Europe: Most MDMA available in the United States is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium and transported to the United States by couriers on commercial flights, mail services, air cargo, and maritime vessels. Very limited quantities of MDMA produced in Asia, Canada, Mexico, and South America also are destined for U.S. markets. Israeli and, to a lesser extent, Russian criminal groups control MDMA transportation from Europe to the United States although Asian, Colombian, and Dominican traffickers increasingly are transporting MDMA from Europe as well.
Israeli and Russian traffickers control most wholesale distribution; Caucasian males primary retail distributors: Israeli and Russian criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of MDMA in the United States. Asian, Colombian, Dominican, and Middle Eastern criminal groups, as well as traditional organized crime, also distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA. These groups, along with African American and Mexican criminal groups, also control most midlevel MDMA distribution. Caucasian males aged 18 to 30, typically independent dealers, control most retail MDMA distribution. Other retail distributors include African American, Asian, and Hispanic street gangs and OMGs.
Pharmaceuticals and Other Dangerous Drugs
Pharmaceuticals diverted by new and traditional methods: Most pharmaceutical controlled substances abused in the United States are diverted by forged prescriptions, "doctor shopping," and theft; however, law enforcement agencies report that pharmaceuticals are increasingly being obtained from Mexico and through Internet pharmacies whose sources of supply often are in Mexico and other foreign countries.
Narcotics abuse increasing: Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in every region of the country report an increase in the availability and abuse of prescription narcotics such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and codeine. The demand, availability, and abuse of these drugs are high and appear to be increasing, but the abuse of hydrocodone and oxycodone drugs in particular poses the greatest threat.
Prescription stimulant abuse, particularly Ritalin abuse, occurring among school students: Stimulants, particularly dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin), are widely available in most areas. Ritalin abuse is most noted in school settings where students with legitimate prescriptions often share the drug with friends. Young adults also abuse these drugs; however, overall abuse appears to be stable.
Availability and abuse of ODDs stable: The availability and abuse of other dangerous drugs (ODDs) are moderate and relatively stable. Particularly popular among adolescents and young adults, ODDs are most prevalent in metropolitan areas. Some club drugs, particularly GHB and Rohypnol, are used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults because of their sedative properties. Although law enforcement reporting indicates increased availability of hallucinogens within college and rave communities, the most recent drug prevalence data indicate that overall use of these drugs is relatively stable.
Gangs and Organizations
Drug trafficking organizations--particularly those based in Mexico and Colombia--are the primary wholesale distributors of most illicit drugs in the United States.3 Colombian DTOs control most wholesale distribution of cocaine and heroin in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. Mexican organizations, however, are the dominant force in the wholesale production, supply, and distribution of illicit drugs in the United States.
Street gangs, OMGs, and prison gangs are the primary retail distributors of illegal drugs in the United States. There are an estimated 850,000 active gang members in the United States. Although concentrated in major urban areas, gangs are proliferating in rural and suburban areas. Gangs obtain powder cocaine primarily from Colombian, Dominican, and Mexican criminal groups and marijuana primarily from Colombian, Mexican, and Jamaican criminal groups. Gangs obtain heroin primarily from Asian, Colombian, Dominican, Mexican, and Nigerian groups and methamphetamine primarily from Mexican criminal groups. Street gangs are responsible for most of the serious violent crime in major cities.
Borders, POEs, and Corridors
Drugs and money are transported mostly on U.S. highways within five corridors: Illicit drugs and drug revenues are transported to primary and secondary markets throughout the United States by passenger and commercial vehicles, principally within five transportation corridors. Generally, drugs flow north from the Southwest Border and the southeastern United States, while illicit drug currency (usually in bulk) is transported in reverse along the same highways to collection centers in primary markets where it is readied for repatriation to foreign countries, primarily Mexico and Colombia.4
Cocaine smuggled to and between ports of entry (POEs) on the U.S.-Mexico border is transported along all five corridors to the Primary Market Areas (PMAs) of Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. The primary POEs for cocaine along the Southwest Border are at and near Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico, and Nogales. In 2002, 64 percent of the cocaine seized at POEs on the U.S.-Mexico border was seized at Texas POEs.
Methamphetamine is transported from California and Mexico to the primary markets of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Central States along corridors 1, 2, 3, and 5. Of the 1,223 kilograms of methamphetamine seized on the Southwest Border in 2002, most (60%) was seized at or between California POEs. The Detroit POE serves as a primary POE for pseudoephedrine smuggled from Canada.
Marijuana is transported to PMAs overland in vehicles via all five corridors to the PMAs of Chicago, Dallas/Houston, Los Angeles/San Diego, Miami, Phoenix/Tucson, and Seattle. Marijuana is smuggled across the U.S.-Canada border primarily at Washington and New York POEs. Once inside the United States, BC Bud is transported along principal U.S. interstates and highways to PMAs in Chicago, Los Angeles/San Diego, Miami, New York, Phoenix/Tucson, and Seattle. Maritime transportation of marijuana to the United States through the Gulf of Mexico is occurring with greater frequency. In 2002 seizures in the Gulf of Mexico represented approximately 24 percent of the marijuana seized at sea, up considerably from approximately 3 percent from 1999 to 2001.
Heroin produced in South America is smuggled by Colombian trafficking groups using couriers traveling aboard commercial flights destined for international airports, generally in New York or Miami. Colombian and Dominican traffickers transport the drug throughout the eastern United States along corridor 4. Mexican traffickers smuggle Mexican heroin from the border area along corridors 1, 2, 3, and 5 to markets in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central regions. Mexican heroin enters the United States mostly at the Laredo, El Paso, and San Ysidro POEs.
MDMA: The primary POEs for MDMA include the John F. Kennedy, Miami, Newark Liberty, and Los Angeles International Airports. From these POEs, MDMA usually is transported to surrounding and major market areas along corridors 1, 2, and 4. From New York, MDMA is transported on domestic flights to Kansas City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Juan, Seattle, and Tampa markets. From Miami, MDMA is transported nationwide via commercial air, private vehicle, mail services, passenger buses, and trains. From Los Angeles, MDMA is transported on commercial flights to Columbus, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis markets.
Outlook, Indicators, and Warnings
1 Also, see U.S.-Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment 2003 (LOU-LES), NDIC Product 2003-R0458-002, July 2003.
2 For fuller analysis, see Heroin in the Northeast, NDIC publication 2003-L0390H-001, August 2003.
3 In addition to the NDTA 2004, this section is supplemented with information drawn from other NDIC publications. See Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations: A National Threat Assessment, NDIC product 2003-J0403-001, March 2003. Also see Gangs and Drugs in the United States, NDIC product 2003-M0465-003, July 2003.
4 In addition to the NDTA 2004, this section is supplemented with information drawn from other NDIC reports. See Primary Drug Transportation Corridors, NDIC product 2003-J0403-003; Port of Entry Profiles for Laredo, Hidalgo, New York-New Jersey, and Miami (2003), and Domestic Drug Flows, NDIC product 2004-20317-007, March 2004.
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End of document.