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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
New York Drug Threat Assessment
November 2002

Other Dangerous Drugs

Other dangerous drugs (ODDs) present an increasing threat to New York. ODDs include MDMA; GHB and its analogs; the hallucinogens LSD, PCP, and ketamine; and the diverted pharmaceuticals OxyContin, Xanax, Vicodin, Dilaudid, methadone, codeine, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) treatment drugs, steroids, and Ritalin. Many law enforcement and health authorities report an increase in the abuse of ODDs in New York. Several law enforcement agencies report an increased level of MDMA abuse, particularly among teenagers and young adults who attend raves and techno parties where many of these drugs are readily available and frequently abused. Diverted pharmaceuticals are readily available in New York.


Throughout the 1990s high energy, all-night dances known as raves, which feature hard-pounding techno music and flashing laser lights, increased in popularity among teenagers and young adults. Raves occur in most metropolitan areas of the country. They can be held at either permanent dance clubs or temporary "weekend" event sites set up in abandoned warehouses, open fields, empty buildings, or civic centers. Club drugs are a group of synthetic drugs often sold at raves, techno parties, and dance clubs. MDMA is one of the most popular club drugs. Rave managers often sell water, pacifiers, and glow sticks at rave parties. "Ravers" require water to offset dehydration caused by MDMA, use pacifiers to prevent the grinding of teeth--a common side effect of abusing MDMA--and wave glow sticks in front of their eyes because MDMA stimulates light perception.


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Also known as Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, and X, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a stimulant and low-level hallucinogen. MDMA is readily available in New York and continues to be more commonly available and abused than any other ODD in the state. MDMA was patented in 1914 in Germany where it was sometimes given to psychiatric patients to assist in psychotherapy. This practice was never approved by the American Psychological Association or the Food and Drug Administration. Sometimes called the hug drug, MDMA purportedly helps abusers to be more "in touch" with others and "opens channels of communication." However, abuse of the drug can cause psychological problems similar to those associated with methamphetamine and cocaine abuse, including confusion, depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and paranoia. The physical effects can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA abuse can also cause a marked increase in body temperature leading to muscle breakdown, kidney failure, cardiovascular system failure, stroke, or seizure as reported in some fatal cases. Researchers suggest that MDMA abuse may result in long-term and sometimes permanent damage to parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory. MDMA often is taken in combination with other drugs such as ketamine, methamphetamine, GHB and its analogs, marijuana, and steroids.

MDMA is widely available and abused at nightclubs, raves, techno parties, and on university campuses throughout New York. In general, abuse is highest in New York City but is spreading to cities such as Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. Federal law enforcement officials in Albany report that the level of MDMA abuse is increasing and will likely continue to increase due to the large number of colleges in the area and its popularity among college students. According to DEA, abusers of MDMA are typically middle- to upper-class students and young professionals between 16 and 25 years of age.

MDMA is available in tablet, capsule and, to a lesser extent, powdered forms. In New York in the first quarter of FY2002, the drug sold for $5 to $13 per dosage unit at the wholesale level (depending on the quantity purchased), according to DEA. At the retail level, MDMA sold for $25 to $38 per dosage unit. MDMA tablets are usually white or off-white but are also available in various colors including pink, blue, yellow and, more recently, purple. Most MDMA tablets are stamped with a logo for marketing purposes. Some common logos available in New York include Mitsubishi, the Statue of Liberty, a crown, and Motorola.

According to EPIC Arrival Zone Seizures Statistics, law enforcement officials in New York seized approximately 828,464 dosage units of MDMA in 2000 and 1,536,010 dosage units in 2001--all were seized from commercial aircraft.

New York is a significant destination area and distribution center for MDMA in the United States. Israeli criminal groups are the dominant wholesale distributors of MDMA in New York. However, Colombian and Dominican DTOs and criminal groups, Eastern European and Asian criminal groups, members of traditional organized crime, and OMGs also distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA in New York. A variety of criminal groups and individuals distribute retail quantities of MDMA in the state. However, independent male Caucasian dealers are the primary distributors of MDMA in nightclubs. Dominican criminal groups usually distribute MDMA in the Washington Heights section of New York City, and African American criminal groups typically distribute MDMA in Harlem.

Large MDMA Seizure

On July 17, 2001, detectives from the New York Police Department arrested two Israeli nationals and seized approximately 1 million MDMA tablets from an apartment complex in the Battery Park section of New York City. The two arrestees had distributed wholesale quantities of MDMA and sold 50,000 to 100,000 tablets for $6.50 per tablet to numerous local suppliers in the New York metropolitan area. Each tablet was stamped with a Mercedes Benz symbol, a superman symbol, or a Pegasus figure.

Source: New York Police Department Major Narcotics Unit, 20 July 2001.


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GHB and Analogs

Although not as popular as other club drugs such as MDMA, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs--GBL, BD, GHV, and GVL--are available in New York. (See Text Box.) GHB is a depressant that is produced naturally by the body and is necessary for full functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Synthetic GHB and its analogs also are known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, and Georgia homeboy. GHB analogs are drugs that possess chemical structures that closely resemble GHB. At lower doses GHB and its analogs cause dizziness, nausea, and visual disturbances. At higher doses unconsciousness, seizure, severe respiratory depression, and coma can occur. GHB and its analogs have been increasingly involved in poisonings, overdoses, sexual assaults, and fatalities. GHB is eliminated from the body quickly, making detection difficult. GHB can be produced easily from readily obtainable ingredients, one of which is GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a solvent commonly used as a paint thinner. Once ingested, GBL is converted into GHB in the body. GHB can be produced as a clear liquid, white powder, pill, or capsule and normally has a salty taste. Dissolving GHB analogs in flavored liquids often masks the drug's normally salty taste. Liquid GHB also can be purchased in colors such as pink, blue, or yellow. In New York GHB is available in powdered and liquid forms, and the liquid form is more popular.

GHB Analogs

Analog Chemical/Alternative Name


furanone di-hydro
BD 1,4 butanediol
tetramethylene glycol
butylene glycol
GVL gamma-valerolactone
GHV gamma-hydroxyvalerate

GHB often is used to facilitate sexual assaults. Because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it can be added to beverages of unsuspecting potential victims. After ingesting the drug, victims often are rendered unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and, in some cases, may not remember a sexual assault.

GHB is available in New York at nightclubs, raves, and techno parties. GHB and its analogs are also available over the Internet and usually are advertised as bodybuilding or health supplements. According to DEA, a dosage unit of GHB--a bottle cap or cap of a 35 millimeter film canister--typically sold for $10 in FY2001. In Orange County, New York, a dosage unit (film canister capful) sold for $60.

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PCP. The distribution and abuse of PCP in New York pose a low threat. PCP was originally developed as an intravenous anesthetic. Use of PCP in humans was discontinued in 1965 because patients who were given the drug became agitated, delusional, and irrational. PCP, also known as angel dust, ozone, wack, and rocket fuel, is now produced illegally in laboratories in the United States. PCP is a white, crystalline powder that is soluble in water and has a bitter taste. The drug can be mixed with dyes and is available in tablets, capsules, or colored powders. PCP may be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed. For smoking purposes PCP may be applied to mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana. When combined with marijuana, the mixture is called a killer joint or crystal supergrass.

PCP is addictive; its abuse often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. Abusers cite feelings of strength, power, invulnerability, and a numbing effect on the mind. At low to moderate doses, physiological effects include a slight increase in respiration and a more pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Respiration becomes shallow, flushing and profuse sweating occur, and generalized numbness of the extremities and lack of muscle coordination also may occur. Psychological effects include distinct changes in body awareness similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. At high doses, blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration drop. High doses also can cause seizures, coma, and sometimes death. Abusers who consume significant quantities of PCP over a long period may suffer memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. PCP has sedative effects and when mixed with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants may result in an overdose or coma. PCP abuse by adolescents may interfere with hormones related to normal growth and development and the learning process.

The number of PCP-related treatment admissions in New York fluctuated at relatively low levels from 1997 through 2001. According to TEDS, there were 248 admissions for PCP abuse in New York in 1997 and 336 in 2001. (See Table 3 in Overview section.)

PCP is available in New York and is readily available in certain areas of east Harlem. Most of the PCP available in the United States is produced in California. Couriers usually transport PCP from California to New York in private and commercial vehicles or via commercial airlines. Customers typically travel to New York City from suburban areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other states to purchase PCP. PCP is occasionally available in Upstate New York, and small laboratories reportedly produce PCP in the Buffalo and Rochester areas. According to DEA, in Upstate New York in 2001 PCP sold for $700 to $1,500 per powdered ounce, and a cigarette dipped in liquid containing PCP sold for $5 to $20 each. In western New York an ounce of liquid PCP sold for $1,000 to $1,200. In New York City liquid PCP sold for $12,000 to $20,000 per gallon and $200 to $450 per ounce.

LSD. Also known as acid, boomers, and yellow sunshine, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is readily available at concerts, raves, and techno parties in New York. LSD is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perception. The effects of LSD are unpredictable depending on the amount taken, the environment in which it is used, and the abuser's personality, mood, and expectations. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, nausea, numbness, weakness, insomnia, dry mouth, and tremors. Abusers may feel the effects for up to 12 hours. Two long-term disorders associated with LSD are persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (flashbacks).

LSD typically is administered orally. It is sold in capsule, microdot, pill, and liquid forms and on pieces of blotter paper that have absorbed the drug. According to DEA, LSD potency currently ranges from 30 to 50 micrograms, considerably lower than in the 1960s and 1970s when potency levels reached more than 300 micrograms.

Most of the LSD available in New York is produced in laboratories on the West Coast and transported by package delivery services to the East Coast. LSD is available in the metropolitan New York area and often is sold at raves, techno parties, and concerts.

The price of LSD varies depending on the quantities involved. DEA reports that wholesale quantities (multiple 1,000 dosage units) of LSD sold for $0.50 per dosage unit in New York City in 2001. In Rochester 1,000 dosage units, commonly referred to as a 10-pack, sold for $1,000 that year. At the retail level a single dosage unit of LSD sold for $3 to $5 in New York City and $1 to $5 in Upstate New York in the first quarter of FY2002.

Ketamine. Also known as K, special K, vitamin K, and cat valium, ketamine presents a low threat to New York but is increasingly available at raves or techno parties and clubs. Ketamine is an injectable anesthetic that is approved for human and animal use. Ketamine is sold commercially and is produced in liquid, powdered, and tablet forms. The liquid form is injected intramuscularly. Liquid ketamine can be boiled into powdered ketamine, some of which is put into capsules. In its powdered form, ketamine can be mistaken for cocaine or methamphetamine and often is snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products. Snorting ketamine is a practice known to ravers as bumping. According to DEA, a new form of ketamine known as keta chloride has recently been identified in New York. Keta chloride is crystallized shards of ketamine that may originate in China. No additional information is currently available.

Low-dose intoxication from ketamine may result in impaired attention, learning ability, and memory; dissociation, which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences; and hallucinations. High doses of ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine gained popularity among abusers in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP abuse. Ketamine abusers in the United States and the United Kingdom have reported incidents similar to bad LSD trips. Some abusers have tried to jump from moving vehicles or fly.

Ketamine usually is diverted from legitimate sources, primarily veterinary clinics, and typically is sold in New York at locations such as nightclubs, raves, and techno parties where MDMA is also available. It also is sold over the Internet. According to DEA, ketamine usually sold for $20 to $50 per dosage unit in 2001.

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Diverted Pharmaceuticals

Prescription drugs including benzodiazepines (Xanax), hydrocodones (Vicodin), hydromorphones (Dilaudid), oxycodones (OxyContin) methadone, codeine, HIV treatment drugs, steroids, and methylphenidate (Ritalin) are commonly diverted and abused in New York. Dilaudid, methadone, steroids, and medications used to treat HIV are among the most commonly diverted and abused pharmaceuticals in New York City. In western New York hydrocodones, benzodiazepines, and codeine combinations are the most popular diverted substances. According to the Syracuse Police Department, the level of OxyContin diversion and abuse has increased at a significant rate in its area.

Common Pharmaceutical Diversion Methods

Pharmaceuticals usually are illegally obtained through theft, pharmacy diversion, "doctor shopping," prescription forgery and improper prescribing practices by physicians. Local independent dealers and abusers rob pharmacies and the homes of legitimate prescription holders to obtain the drugs. Pharmaceutical diversion occurs when pharmacy employees steal products directly from the shelves. Doctor shopping occurs when individuals, who may or may not have a legitimate ailment, visit numerous physicians to obtain drugs in excess of what should be legitimately prescribed. Prescription forgery occurs when dealers or abusers steal prescriptions from physicians or alter the writing on prescriptions doctors have issued. Some unscrupulous physicians prescribe medications for individuals without a legitimate need for the drug at the patient's request either for a fee or for sexual favors. Legitimate prescription holders also divert portions of their prescriptions for abuse or financial gain.


Local law enforcement officials in Upstate New York report that the level of Ritalin abuse is increasing. Young individuals typically grind the tablets into a powder and snort it to achieve a euphoric effect. Sometimes referred to as high school heroin, Ritalin usually is sold from student to student but also is stolen from school dispensaries and from individuals with legitimate prescriptions. In Rye, an affluent city in Westchester County, students who take Ritalin in combination with other substances such as marijuana or alcohol refer to the practice as ratling.


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