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National Drug Intelligence Center.



Pharmaceuticals Drug Threat Assessment


Publication Date: November 2004

Document ID: 2004-L0487-001

Archived on:  January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.

This report provides an assessment of prescription drug availability, diversion, and abuse. Also discussed are the threats posed by doctor shopping, prescription fraud, unscrupulous physicians, theft, and internet pharmacies.

Your questions, comments, and suggestions for future subjects are welcome at any time.  Addresses are provided at the end of the page.

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Key Findings




  Doctor Shopping
  Prescription Fraud
  Unscrupulous Physicians
  Internet Pharmacies


Northeast Region

Southeast Region

Midwest Region

Southwest Region

Pacific Region

West Region



List of Tables 

Table 1. Theft of Pharmaceuticals From Pharmacies, Manufacturers, Distributors, and Importers/Exporters, in Dosage Units, 2000-2003

List of Figures

Figure 1. Counterfeit Drug Cases, 1997-2003.

Photo of red and white capsules and pentagon-shaped white pills next to a prescription bottle containing some red and white capsules.

Cover photo NDIC.

Key Findings

Abuse of prescription drugs increased sharply through the 1990s, appears to have stabilized by 2002, and may now be declining. Emergency department mentions of narcotic analgesics increased more than 160 percent from 1995 through 2002, and those of benzodiazepines increased 40 percent during the same period. From 1992 through 2002, treatment admissions for opiates other than heroin increased more than 200 percent.

The availability of pharmaceuticals has increased since the late 1990s when legitimate production of pharmaceuticals increased sharply, making more pharmaceuticals available for illegal diversion.

Pharmaceuticals pose an increasing threat to the United States. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) data (see text box in Overview section) indicate that the percentage of state and local law enforcement respondents that identify pharmaceuticals as their greatest drug threat increased from 2.4 percent in 2003 to 3.1 percent in 2004.

The threat posed by pharmaceuticals varies by region. Law enforcement agencies in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest regions were more likely to identify pharmaceuticals as their greatest drug threat than agencies in the Southwest, Pacific, and West. 


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