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National Drug Intelligence Center.



National Drug Threat Assessment 2005

Summary Report 

Publication Date: February 2005

Document ID: 2005-Q0317-005

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Cover image of the National Drug Threat Assessment 2005 Summary Report.


   Overall Key Findings
   Drug-Specific Key Findings

National Drug Threat Assessment 2005 Summary Report








   Other Dangerous Drugs



    Money Laundering 


List of Figures

Figure 1. Primary Market Areas
Figure 2. Cocaine Flows to the United States
Figure 3. Reported Methamphetamine Laboratory Seizures, 1999-2003
Figure 4. Percentages of Treatment Admissions for Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Based on Criminal Justice Referrals, 1999-2002
Figure 5. Methamphetamine Seizures at or Between Ports of Entry, in Kilograms, 2003
Figure 6. Rates of Past Year Use for Marijuana, 2000-2004
Figure 7. Principal Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation Areas
Figure 8. Numbers of Persons Aged 12 or Older Reporting Past Year Use in Millions, 2003
Figure 9. Heroin Admissions to Publicly Funded Treatment Facilities, 1992-2002
Figure 10. MDMA-Related Arrests, Nationwide, 2000-2003
Figure 11. MDMA Seizures, in Dosage Units, 2000-2003
Figure 12. Emergency Department Mentions for Narcotic Analgesics, 1995-2002
Figure 13. Emergency Department Mentions for Benzodiazepines, 1995-2002
Figure 14. Estimated Annual Domestic Retail-Level Drug Purchases in Billions of Dollars, 2000

List of Tables

Table 1. Drug Seizures at Ports of Entry in Kilograms, Southwest Border vs. Northern Border, 2003
Table 2: Seizures of Drugs in Kilograms Originating in Southwest Border States vs. All Other States, 2003
Table 3. Andean Region Coca Cultivation in Hectares, and Potential Cocaine Production, in Metric Tons, (100% pure), 1999-2003
Table 4. Cocaine Losses in Transit Toward the United States, in Metric Tons, 2002-2003
Table 5. Methamphetamine National Price Ranges, 2003
Table 6. Top Five States for Marijuana Eradication, 2003
Table 7. U.S. Arrival Zone Seizures of Marijuana in Kilograms, 2001-2003
Table 8. Potential Worldwide Heroin Production, in Metric Tons, 1999-2003


The abuse of illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, and MDMA as well as diverted pharmaceuticals inflicts  tremendous damage on society. Nearly 35 million persons aged 12 or older used an illicit drug within the past year, and approximately 3.8 million were dependent on or abusers of illicit drugs in 2003. Key trends and developments related to narcotics trafficking and drug abuse include:

Overall Key Findings

  • Mexican criminal groups exert more influence over drug trafficking in the United States than any other group. Mexican criminal groups smuggle most of the cocaine available in domestic drug markets into the country. Moreover, Mexican criminal groups produce and subsequently smuggle into the country much of the heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine available in U.S. drug markets. Mexican criminal groups also produce large amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine within the United States for domestic distribution. Mexican criminal groups are the predominant transporters and wholesale distributors of cocaine and methamphetamine in most regions of the country; they are the predominant transporters and wholesale distributors of heroin in western regions of the country; and they are very prominent transporters and wholesale distributors of marijuana throughout the country.

  • Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) appear to be gaining control of a larger percentage of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. The estimated percentage of cocaine smuggled into the United States via the Mexico-Central America corridor increased sharply from 72 percent in 2002 to 77 percent in 2003, and preliminary data indicate that the percentage may be higher than 90 percent for 2004. Nearly all of  the cocaine transported through the Mexico-Central America corridor ultimately is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by Mexican criminal groups for subsequent distribution in the United States.

  • Domestic drug markets appear to be increasingly supplied with methamphetamine produced in methamphetamine superlabs in Mexico. 

  • Production and distribution of ice methamphetamine--a higher purity, more addictive form of  methamphetamine--by Mexican criminal groups has increased sharply in many drug markets since 2001.

  • Colombian DTOs are increasingly relying on Mexican DTOs and criminal groups to transport South American heroin to the United States much as they rely on Mexican DTOs to transport cocaine.

  • The threat posed to the United States by the illegal diversion and abuse of prescription drugs has increased sharply since the mid-1990s and is now among the leading drug threats to the country.

  • Law enforcement reporting indicates that transportation of bulk currency out of the United States--primarily overland across the U.S.-Mexico border--is the principal form of money laundering by DTOs.

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Drug-Specific Key Findings


  • Key indicators show stable or slightly increased cocaine availability in U.S. drug markets despite sharp decreases in the amount of cocaine transported toward the United States from South America in 2003.

  • Use of powder cocaine and crack has decreased overall among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders since 1999.

  • Worldwide cocaine production has decreased sharply since 2001, primarily because of a 34 percent decline in cocaine production in Colombia from 700 metric tons in 2001 to 460 metric tons in 2003.


  • Methamphetamine availability has increased sharply over the past year in the Northeast Region, primarily because of an increase in wholesale distribution by Mexican criminal groups.

  • The number of treatment admissions for methamphetamine has increased significantly from 58,795 in 1999, to 66,975 in 2000, to 81,799 in 2001, and 104,481 in 2002.

  • National-level laboratory seizure data as well as law enforcement reporting indicate that domestic methamphetamine production has expanded to more areas of the country and that the total number of laboratories seized increased steadily from 1999 (6,940) through 2003 (10,340). However, these increases do not necessarily reflect a rise in the total amount of methamphetamine produced in the country, as the number of methamphetamine superlabs (laboratories capable of producing at least 10 pounds of methamphetamine per production cycle) operating in the United States appears to be decreasing. The number of reported superlab seizures has decreased from 246 in 2001, to 144 in 2002, to 133 in 2003. Moreover, preliminary data indicate that the number of superlab seizures may have declined significantly in 2004.

  • Law enforcement reporting and drug seizure data indicate that methamphetamine production has increased sharply in Mexico since 2002.


  • Marijuana use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders as well as college students has declined each year since peaking in the late 1990s.

  • Domestic marijuana production appears to be increasing, in part because of the rising involvement of U.S.-based Mexican criminal groups in domestic cultivation.

  • Mexico has been the principal source area for U.S.-destined foreign marijuana for decades, and already high production levels escalated in 2003. An estimated 13,500 metric tons of marijuana were potentially produced in Mexico in 2003--70 percent more than in the previous year. Reportedly contributing to the escalated production in 2003 were favorable rainfall patterns in the western Sierra Madre Mountains, throughout which small cultivation plots are scattered to avoid detection and eradication of the plants.


  • The availability of Southwest Asian heroin appears to have increased slightly in 2003; however, preliminary 2004 data indicate that availability of Southwest Asian heroin may be declining to pre-2003 levels.

  • Worldwide heroin production increased in 2002, 2003, and 2004, attributable overwhelmingly to increases in production in Afghanistan. 

  • The smuggling of South American heroin across the Southwest Border--particularly through Texas--increased significantly in 2003; however, the total amount of heroin seized in Texas still accounts for a relatively small percentage of heroin seized in the United States each year.


  • The availability of and rates of use for MDMA have decreased nationwide since 2001.

  • The number of domestic MDMA laboratories seized, while still very low, increased slightly in 2004.

  • Shifts in transportation routes have resulted in a decrease in the amount of MDMA smuggled into the United States directly from the Netherlands and Belgium.

  • Asian criminal groups are becoming increasingly involved in MDMA trafficking in all regions.


  • The abuse of prescription drugs has increased sharply since the mid-1990s and now has stabilized at high levels.

  • The availability of pharmaceuticals has increased since the late 1990s when legitimate distribution of pharmaceuticals increased sharply.

Other Dangerous Drugs

  • Emergency department (ED) mentions for GHB have increased sharply since the mid-1990s.

  • Rates of ketamine use are trending downward among adolescents and young adults.

  • The availability of LSD is decreasing, and rates of use have decreased sharply since 2001 to very low levels.

  • ED mentions for PCP are increasing despite declining past year rates of use.


  • Rates of use for inhalants declined overall from 1995 to 2002; however, use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders rose significantly from 2003 to 2004.


  • Steroid use among high school students has risen overall since the early 1990s but now appears to be fluctuating among twelfth graders and declining among eighth and tenth graders.

Money Laundering

  • Interagency estimates indicate that the cost to society from drug trafficking and abuse in the United States is between $60 billion and $108 billion.

  • Government estimates indicate annual retail-level cocaine purchases at $36 billion, heroin at $10 billion, marijuana at $11 billion, methamphetamine at $5.4 billion, and other substances at $2.4 billion.

  • Law enforcement reporting indicates that transportation of bulk currency out of the United States--primarily overland across the U.S.-Mexico border--is the principal form of money laundering utilized by DTOs.


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