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National Drug Intelligence Center
Oklahoma Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine, the greatest drug threat to Oklahoma, is available throughout the state, and abuse of the drug is increasing. Violence associated with the production, distribution, and abuse of methamphetamine poses a significant threat to the safety of Oklahoma's residents. Methamphetamine production is increasing in the state, and laboratory seizures increased dramatically from 1995 through 2001. In addition to being produced in the state, methamphetamine is transported into and through Oklahoma by Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups. They transport the drug from producers in Mexico, California, and Arizona. These Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are also the primary wholesale distributors of the drug within the state. Mexican criminal groups, Caucasian criminal groups, street gangs, independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, OMGs distribute methamphetamine at the retail level.
In Oklahoma methamphetamine abuse is a serious concern, and there are indications that abuse of the drug is increasing. The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) indicates that the number of methamphetamine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Oklahoma was higher in 2001 (3,231) than in 1997 (2,191). (See Table 1.) According to TEDS data, most methamphetamine-related admissions involved Caucasian and American Indian/Alaskan Native abusers who accounted for 97.6 percent of methamphetamine-related treatment admissions in 2001. According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, 25 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in FY2001 reported abusing methamphetamine as the primary drug of choice--a dramatic increase from 11 percent in FY1996. According to treatment data, when asked to list their primary drug of choice, individuals were allowed to report more than one drug (including alcohol) and, on average, reported 1.7 drugs of choice.
Methamphetamine-related overdoses and deaths have increased. The Oklahoma Poison Control Center reports that nonfatal methamphetamine-related overdoses increased from 40 in 1999 to 44 in 2000. According to DAWN mortality data, methamphetamine-related deaths (deaths in which methamphetamine was a contributing factor but not necessarily the sole cause of death) in Oklahoma County increased overall from 39 in 1996 to 56 in 2000. Methamphetamine was the only drug detected in 12 of the 56 methamphetamine-related deaths in 2000. The remaining deaths involved methamphetamine in combination with one or more drugs. For example, methamphetamine and amphetamine were present in 28 of the 56 methamphetamine-related deaths reported in 2000.
In Oklahoma lifetime methamphetamine/amphetamine use among high school students surveyed during the 1999-2000 school year was second only to marijuana use. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services reports that 11.5 percent of Oklahoma high school students surveyed reported using methamphetamine/amphetamine at least once in their lifetime. Twelfth graders reported the highest percentage (13.1%) of lifetime use.
The percentage of adult male arrestees in Oklahoma City who tested positive for methamphetamine in 2000 was relatively high. According to the 2000 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program for Oklahoma City, 11.3 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine is available throughout Oklahoma. The most common type is powdered methamphetamine. Crystal methamphetamine, a colorless, odorless, smokable form of d-methamphetamine commonly known as ice, also is available in the state.
The price of methamphetamine in Oklahoma is stable. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Dallas Division, which oversees the state of Oklahoma, reports that the price of methamphetamine throughout Oklahoma remained stable from the third quarter of FY2000 to the first quarter of FY2002. Methamphetamine in Oklahoma City sold for $65 to $90 per gram, $350 to $1,600 per ounce, and $12,000 to $20,000 per kilogram in the first quarter of FY2002. The price per pound was not available. In Tulsa the drug sold for $600 to $1,200 per ounce ($1,500 per ounce for crystal methamphetamine) and $8,500 to $15,000 per pound. In McAlester methamphetamine sold for $100 per gram, $1,000 per ounce, and $10,000 to $12,000 per pound. In Duncan the drug sold for $30 to $60 per gram and $700 to $1,000 per ounce.
Law enforcement personnel throughout Oklahoma reported a record number of methamphetamine seizures in 2000, the most recent data available. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety reported that seizures of methamphetamine by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol more than doubled from 54 pounds in 1999 to 128 pounds in 2000. During the first quarter of 2000, agents with the District 27 Drug Task Force, which serves Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner Counties, seized 281 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $12.5 million.
The number of federal sentences for methamphetamine-related offenses in Oklahoma remained relatively stable from FY1997 through FY2000, the most recent data available. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), there were 60 methamphetamine-related federal sentences in FY1997, 63 in FY1998, 60 in FY1999, and 59 in FY2000. In FY2000 methamphetamine accounted for the largest percentage (36.9%) of drug-related federal sentences in Oklahoma.
Violence associated with methamphetamine production, distribution, and abuse is a significant threat to Oklahoma. Mexican criminal groups and street gangs use violence to protect drug shipments and maintain control over drug territories. Street gangs also commit assaults, drive-by shootings, vehicle thefts, robberies, and homicides. Many of these street gangs, such as Bloods, Crips, Mara Salvatrucha, and Latin Kings, have nationwide connections and ties to family-based criminal groups in Mexico.
Methamphetamine users experience paranoia, hallucinations or mood disturbances, and exhibit a tendency toward violence. Mental health agencies warn that methamphetamine abuse can be directly associated with domestic violence--including spousal and child abuse--and homicide
Methamphetamine production continues to be a significant problem in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, methamphetamine laboratory seizures increased dramatically from 34 in 1995 to 1,193 in 2001. (See Chart 1.) In the first 3 months of 2002, there were 231 methamphetamine laboratories seized in the state. In the first 6 months of 2002, there were 131 methamphetamine laboratory seizures in Oklahoma City alone.
Most laboratories in Oklahoma are small operations that produce 1 ounce or less of methamphetamine per production cycle. Caucasian males are the primary methamphetamine producers in the state. The most popular production process, particularly in western Oklahoma, is the Birch reduction method--also known as the Nazi method--which involves the use of anhydrous ammonia and is a fairly simple process. It requires less than 1 hour to produce a finished product that is about 95 percent pure. In eastern Oklahoma the most common method used is the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method. This method takes over 3 hours to produce methamphetamine that is approximately 90 percent pure.
Methamphetamine laboratories are easily assembled and may be located at various sites including residences and motels. Because these laboratories are small, they can be set up in vehicles and transported from one place to another, making detection by law enforcement difficult. Methamphetamine laboratory operators attempt to disguise their activities in a variety of ways. For example, on May 5, 2002, federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities seized two interrelated methamphetamine laboratories operating in motels located in Sulphur, south of Oklahoma City. The methamphetamine producers used one motel for the pseudoephedrine extraction process and the second motel for the final production process. Authorities confiscated 4 gallons of methamphetamine oil, an undetermined amount of powdered methamphetamine, various hazardous chemicals such as sulfuric acid and muriatic acid, and approximately $500 in cash. Although methamphetamine laboratory operators in other areas of the country have been known to compartmentalize their operations in an effort to elude discovery and seizure by law enforcement officials, this is the first time that a compartmentalized operation was identified in Sulphur.
Law enforcement personnel and civilians--including children--are exposed to the dangers of explosion, toxic chemicals, and lethal by-products of the methamphetamine production process. Law enforcement personnel must wear special breathing devices, chemical detectors, and protective chemical-resistant suits, boots, and gloves when they are in or near methamphetamine laboratories.
Cleanup costs for methamphetamine production sites are high. In 1999 DEA estimated that the average cleanup cost per site in Oklahoma was $2,500. In that year the total cost for cleanup of methamphetamine production sites in the state was over $600,000. This cost normally does not include removing the contaminants from the water supply, soil, or laboratory structures. For each 1 pound of methamphetamine produced, 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste are generated. Laboratory operators often dispose of this waste in sewers or rivers or on the ground, contaminating water and soil.
Diversion of precursor chemicals used in the methamphetamine production process is another challenge facing Oklahoma law enforcement. Some methamphetamine producers in western Oklahoma use "smurfs"--individuals who purchase small amounts of the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine--to acquire pseudoephedrine and hydriodic acid in Kansas. Anhydrous ammonia, a colorless, pungent gas legitimately used as a fertilizer and illegally used in methamphetamine production, is abundantly available throughout most of Oklahoma. Thefts of anhydrous ammonia are increasing throughout the state, particularly in western Oklahoma. Typically, anhydrous ammonia is stolen directly from storage tanks on farms and ranches. Law enforcement officials report that thieves commonly use thermos bottles and stainless steel soda syrup containers to transport the anhydrous ammonia. In some cases laboratory operators may transfer the anhydrous ammonia directly from the tank to a methamphetamine mix that is already in process. This is referred to as gassing the mix. Medical examiners have reported some deaths related to anhydrous ammonia inhalation. When the chemical is inhaled, it destroys water-absorbing fibers and the lungs fill with fluid, resulting in death.
Iodine crystals also are diverted for use in methamphetamine production. Iodine crystals have many commercial and veterinary uses and are readily available at feed and tack stores as well as chemical supply stores. Federal legislation mandates reporting of all sales of iodine crystals if an individual purchases more than 0.4 kilogram per month--a threshold set by DEA in 2000. Federal laws impose stringent penalties for failing to report iodine crystal sales or selling iodine crystals with the knowledge or belief that the chemical would be used to produce a controlled substance. According to DEA, iodine crystals were sold for $130 to $160 per pound in Oklahoma City in the first quarter of FY2002. In Tulsa iodine crystals sold for $200 per pound, $125 per one-half pound, and $25 per ounce.
Lithium, a precursor chemical used in the Birch reduction method, also is diverted in Oklahoma. OSBI reports that methamphetamine laboratory operators in Oklahoma are stealing electronic flowmeters from gas and oil wells to obtain lithium. The operators, many of whom are current or former gas or oil field employees, obtain the lithium from batteries in the meters. According to OSBI, these batteries contain significantly more lithium than batteries that are commercially available.
Oklahoma is a transit area and destination point for methamphetamine. Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups transport methamphetamine into Oklahoma. These DTOs and criminal groups typically transport methamphetamine in large quantities from Mexico through Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas for local distribution and further transportation to other states. Methamphetamine produced in Arizona and California also is transported into and through Oklahoma.
Methamphetamine generally is transported into and through Oklahoma in private and commercial vehicles. The drug typically is concealed in suitcases, boxes, trunks, consoles, and also in hidden compartments. Law enforcement personnel report that hidden compartments built into firewalls, truck beds, camper shell roof liners, bumpers, and gas tanks often are used to conceal drugs. Methamphetamine also may be intermingled with cargo in commercial vehicles. Oklahoma law enforcement officers report a trend toward the use of rental vehicles to transport drugs into Oklahoma. The types of rental vehicles used range from small compact cars to luxury sedans. In addition to land conveyances, private aircraft and couriers on commercial aircraft are used to transport the drug into the state. Methamphetamine is, in all likelihood, shipped into Oklahoma via package delivery services, although there have been no recent documented seizures.
Oklahoma law enforcement officers continue to seize wholesale quantities of methamphetamine on the state's highways. As previously stated, officers from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety seized a total of 128 pounds of methamphetamine in 2000. The routes most commonly used to transport the drug into and through Oklahoma are I-35, I-40, and I-44. Operation Pipeline data from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) indicate that 8.66 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized on I-35 in February 2000. In July 2000 over 2.5 kilograms were seized on I-40 in Sequoyah County. In November 2000, 9 kilograms were seized on I-40 in Canadian County.
The Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups that dominate methamphetamine transportation also distribute methamphetamine at the wholesale level in Oklahoma. These DTOs and criminal groups obtain methamphetamine from sources in Mexico and from states such as Arizona and California and then sell the drug to retail distributors. In 1998 the DEA Tulsa Resident Office identified 15 Mexican criminal groups distributing methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana in its jurisdiction. Each group typically included three to five retail distributors.
Mexican criminal groups, Caucasian criminal groups, street gangs, independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, OMGs--most notably Mongols and Rogues--distribute methamphetamine at the retail level. Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and Mara Salvatrucha are street gangs involved in methamphetamine distribution. Independent dealers produce methamphetamine for personal use but also sell small quantities in order to support their habits. Retailers typically sell methamphetamine from their residences and at nightclubs throughout the larger cities in the state.
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