Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
Marijuana is the most widely abused illicit drug in the Appalachia HIDTA region; diverted pharmaceuticals, cocaine, and methamphetamine (powder and ice) are also commonly abused. Heroin and ODDs are abused throughout the region, but to a lesser extent. According to data from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), more individuals were treated for marijuana abuse in Kentucky from 2001 through 2005 (the year for which the latest data are available) than were treated for the abuse of cocaine (smoked and by other routes of administration), heroin, pharmaceutical drugs (including other opiates, hallucinogens, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives), or amphetamines, which include methamphetamine.6 (See Figure 4.)
Law enforcement officials report that drug abusers in the region are more inclined to use diverted pharmaceuticals than any other drug except marijuana. Moreover, treatment providers in the region report increasing abuse of benzodiazepines, particularly alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, clonazepam, and diazepam. Treatment providers also report that many users are abusing illicit drugs in combination with prescription narcotics. In addition, the Tennessee Office of the State Medical Examiner reports that illicit drugs were mentioned as a cause of death in 104 of the 129 deaths that the office reviewed in Tennessee HIDTA counties in 2005; most of the drug-related deaths involved a combination of drugs such as prescription narcotics, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
The abuse of high-purity ice methamphetamine is increasing in the Appalachia HIDTA region, largely as a result of its increased availability, ease of administration (smoking), and consistently low price. Ice methamphetamine abuse crosses all demographic categories in the HIDTA region, including teenagers and young adults active in the area's club scene. Heroin abuse remains low throughout the region; however, law enforcement officials in Tennessee and Kentucky report that demand for Mexican black tar heroin is growing among middle- and upper-income abusers. The abuse of ODDs is at low levels.
Mexican DTOs typically transport drug proceeds in bulk by private vehicle from the Appalachia HIDTA region to Atlanta and the Southwest Border area for eventual smuggling to Mexico. Mexican DTOs and other wholesale distributors transfer drug proceeds from the region using money services businesses such as money remittance firms. Most midlevel and retail-level traffickers launder drug proceeds through the purchase of real estate and expensive consumer items, including automobiles, clothing, electronic equipment, and jewelry. In urban areas of the region, midlevel and retail-level traffickers often purchase cash-intensive front businesses, such as automobile shops, grocery stores, pawn shops, and restaurants, which they use to commingle drug proceeds with legitimate income. Some family-based organizations in more rural areas simply hide drug proceeds in bulk, drawing cash as needed to make purchases, rather than using banks or government institutions, which they generally distrust.