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National Drug Threat Assessment 2006
January 2006

National Drug Threat Overview

The abuse of marijuana, heroin, prescription narcotics, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy), GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) has decreased. Additionally, the availability of LSD and GHB--drugs that appeal particularly to adolescents--has decreased significantly, and heroin availability appears to be declining as well. On the other hand, high--possibly increasing--marijuana and methamphetamine availability persists despite demonstrable progress that the counter-drug community has made against the trafficking and abuse of these illicit drugs. Cocaine availability appears to be stable based on certain indicators; however, recent changes in the price and purity of retail level cocaine reported by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) suggest that counterdrug measures are starting to have an impact. 

Domestic methamphetamine production is decreasing overall; however, domestic decreases have been offset by increased production in Mexico, suggesting a close link between domestic and Mexico production of the drug. For example, a sharp decrease in methamphetamine production in large domestic laboratories since 2002--primarily because of decreased supplies of bulk pseudoephedrine from Canada--has been largely balanced by a concurrent sharp increase in large-scale methamphetamine production in Mexico, where bulk supplies of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are more available. The apparent ease with which Mexican criminal groups adapt to law enforcement pressure and production supply shortages by moving operations back and forth across the border indicates that an unbalanced effort on either side of the border may limit the effectiveness of methamphetamine suppression initiatives.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups control most organized wholesale drug trafficking (smuggling, transportation, and wholesale distribution) in the United States, and their control is increasing. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups, long identified as the predominant transporters and wholesale distributors of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and Mexico-produced heroin in the Pacific, Southwest, and West Central Regions, have emerged as the predominant wholesale cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine distributors in the Great Lakes and Southeast Regions. Moreover, Mexican criminal groups' control over methamphetamine supplies and distribution throughout the country will increase sharply in the near term. Domestic methamphetamine production, already lower than in previous years, is likely to decrease sharply in the near term because of increased law enforcement pressure and state- and national-level restrictions on the sale and use of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products. As fewer individual users are able to produce methamphetamine domestically, retail distributors and users will become increasingly reliant upon Mexico-produced methamphetamine supplied by Mexican criminal groups.

Although far less influential than Mexican criminal groups, Asian criminal groups also appear to be gaining control over wholesale drug distribution, particularly MDMA and Canada-produced marijuana. In fact, law enforcement reporting indicates that Asian criminal groups--primarily Chinese and Vietnamese groups--are now among the leading distributors of MDMA in New York and Los Angeles, the two largest MDMA markets in the United States. Moreover, Canada-based criminal groups composed primarily of ethnic Asians appear to be the predominant smugglers and wholesale distributors of Canada-produced marijuana in the United States, and these groups are increasing domestic distribution of the drug.

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