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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
Washington Drug Threat Assessment
February 2003

Other Dangerous Drugs

With the exception of MDMA, other dangerous drugs (ODDs) present a low but increasing threat to Washington. MDMA is readily available and abused in Washington. ODDs include the stimulant MDMA, the hallucinogens LSD and psilocybin, and the depressant GHB and its analogs. Various criminal groups transport these ODDs to Washington via private vehicles, commercial aircraft, couriers on foot entering the United States from Canada, and package delivery services. Many of these drugs are sold and abused by middle-class, suburban, young adults at raves and nightclubs and on college campuses. Several Internet web sites advertise weekly rave events in Washington and surrounding states, and the number of rave parties, where these drugs often are distributed, is increasing. Diverted pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and methadone (Dolophine) also pose a low but increasing threat.


Throughout the 1990s high energy, all-night dances known as raves, which feature techno-music and flashing laser lights, increased in popularity among teens and young adults. Raves typically occur in 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 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 abuse, use pacifiers to avoid grinding their teeth--a common side effect of MDMA abuse--and wave glow sticks in front of their eyes because MDMA stimulates light perception.

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MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, and X, is a stimulant and low-level hallucinogen. The drug was patented in 1914 in Germany where it was sometimes given to psychiatric patients to assist in psychotherapy, a practice never approved by the American Psychological Association or the Food and Drug Administration. MDMA, sometimes called the hug drug, is said to make users "feel good"; they claim that the drug helps them to be more "in touch" with others and that it "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. Negative physical effects can also result, including 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 is readily available and abused by teenagers and young adults in Washington, particularly in Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, and surrounding areas. In November 2000 Harborview Medical Center in Seattle treated six young adults for MDMA overdose following a single rave event. In addition, the King County Medical Examiner's office reported two MDMA-related deaths in 2001.

Raves in Seattle

Raves in Seattle commonly are called massives because of the large number of attendees. At least five massives were held from November 2000 to March 2002, and the number of attendees ranged from approximately 8,000 to 12,000 per event. These raves are not underground or secretive; they are organized, commercial events with online ticketing and onsite security. MDMA is sold at these raves in personal use amounts.

MDMA is smuggled into Washington from Canada and Europe by several means. MDMA transporters use couriers on foot entering the United States from Canada, couriers traveling on commercial aircraft, private vehicles, and package delivery services. In November 2001 federal prosecutors in Seattle indicted a female courier who had transported 110,000 MDMA tablets from London to Seattle on a commercial aircraft. During July 2001 USBP officers seized more than 90,000 MDMA tablets that had been left along a trail near the town of Sumas, located on the U.S.-Canada border, by one trafficker for pickup by another. The MDMA was concealed in hockey equipment bags and commingled with 67 pounds of high potency marijuana.

Washington is a transshipment point for MDMA being transported to other states. According to the DEA Seattle Division, MDMA is transported from Seattle and, to a lesser extent, from Spokane and Tacoma to Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah. In the second quarter of 2001, the Anchorage Police Department seized 77 MDMA tablets that had been concealed in an aspirin bottle and sent from Seattle by mail. Also in the second quarter of 2001, law enforcement officials in Prince William County, Virginia, seized more than 5,000 MDMA tablets and arrested several individuals who had transported the drugs via private vehicle from Seattle to northwestern Virginia. The MDMA tablets were stamped with a Rolex logo. In July 2000 during a routine traffic stop, the Utah Highway Patrol seized 400 grams of MDMA and arrested two individuals who were transporting the drug from Seattle to Orem, Utah.

Caucasian local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Asian criminal groups, are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of MDMA in Washington. Many retail level MDMA distributors are middle- and upper-middle class Caucasian high school or college age students. MDMA typically is distributed at colleges, raves, nightclubs, and private parties. In January 2002 federal and local law enforcement authorities in Seattle arrested 29 individuals who allegedly distributed more than 50,000 MDMA tablets per week from a local nightclub. In May 2001 the Quad Cities Drug Task Force seized nearly 40 MDMA tablets and arrested four Washington State University students in Pullman. The students were members of two fraternities and had distributed the drug from their fraternity houses to university and high school students. MDMA distributed in Washington often is stamped with a brand name or a logo. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 MDMA sold for $11 to $25 per tablet in Seattle and $20 to $25 in Blaine.

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LSD. The distribution and abuse of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) pose a low threat to Washington. LSD, also known as acid, boomers, and yellow sunshine, is a hallucinogen that induces abnormalities in sensory perceptions. The effects of LSD are unpredictable depending upon the amount taken, the environment in which it is abused, and the abuser's personality, mood, and expectations. Abusers may feel the immediate effects for up to 12 hours. 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. Two long-term disorders associated with LSD are persistent psychosis and flashbacks. Typically, the drug is taken orally.

LSD is sold primarily at raves, bars, and nightclubs in large cities and college towns in Washington. The hallucinogen is available in powder and liquid forms, in tablets or capsules, on pieces of blotter paper that absorb the drug, and on small candies. Most abusers are high school and college age individuals, some of whom hide liquid LSD in breath mint vials or eyedrop bottles. According to DEA Seattle Division, blotter LSD is the most prevalent type available in Seattle and Tacoma. In FY2002 blotter paper with 100 dosage units of LSD sold for about $100 in Seattle and $200 to $300 in Tacoma. A vial of 110 dosage units sold for $80 to $100 in Seattle, and single dosage units sold for $3 to $8 in Seattle and $2 to $3 in Tacoma.

Most LSD distributed in Washington is produced in California and Oregon, and typically is transported into the state by local independent dealers in private vehicles. Caucasian college and high school students are the principal retail distributors of the drug. In March 2001 law enforcement officials at a local rave event in Bellingham seized 150 doses of LSD and arrested one individual.

Psilocybin. Also known as cubes, liberty caps, magic mushrooms, mushies, mushrooms, psilocybes, and shrooms, psilocybin poses a relatively low drug threat to Washington. Psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms, notably two Mexican species--Psilocybe mexicana and Stropharia cubensis. Psilocybin produces effects similar to those of LSD. The hallucinogenic effects of the drug begin within 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion and last about 6 hours, depending primarily on dosage.

Psilocybin cultivated in Washington is the primary type available; however, psilocybin from sources outside the state is also available. Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary producers, transporters, and distributors of psilocybin in Washington. These dealers often use package delivery services and private vehicles to transport psilocybin to drug markets in Washington. Psilocybin typically is distributed on college campuses. In May 2001 law enforcement officials in Pullman seized more than one-quarter pound of psilocybin and arrested four college students who distributed the drug from fraternity houses. Psilocybin sells for approximately $150 per ounce. Psilocybin spores are sold for as little as $10 by companies over the Internet. In the first quarter of 2001, as part of an investigation, DEA Seattle Division agents purchased five spores for $50 via the Internet.

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GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs pose a low drug threat to Washington. GHB is a depressant that occurs naturally in the body and is necessary for complete functioning of the brain and central nervous system. GHB analogs are drugs that possess chemical structures that closely resemble GHB. GHB and its analogs are also known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, and Georgia homeboy. GHB and its analogs have been increasingly involved in poisonings, overdoses, and fatalities nationwide. Overdoses can occur quickly; some signs include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, impaired breathing, and sometimes death. GHB and its analogs often are used in the commission of drug-facilitated sexual assault because of their sedative properties. The drugs are eliminated from the body quickly, which makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to detect them using blood and urine screenings. In November 2000 hospital officials in Seattle treated three individuals for GHB overdose following a rave event.

GHB is sold and abused in Washington commonly at social venues such as bars, nightclubs, and raves. Young adults, usually Caucasian, are the principal distributors and abusers of the drug. Recipes and do-it-yourself kits for GHB production are available from many Internet sites. GHB analogs are available at disreputable health food stores, gyms, and via the Internet. GHB is sold in liquid quantities in small breath mint bottles containing approximately 100 dosage units and selling for $100.


Diverted Pharmaceuticals

Diverted pharmaceuticals pose a low but increasing threat to Washington. The most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in Washington are opiates, including oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and methadone (Dolophine). These drugs are narcotic pain relievers prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Codeine, fentanyl, meperidine, pentazocine, and propoxyphene also are abused but to a lesser extent. These drugs commonly are prescribed to relieve anxiety and muscle spasms.

According to the Washington Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the number of admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities in the state for abuse of opiates other than heroin increased overall from 259 in SFY1999 to 399 in SFY2000.

Pharmaceuticals are diverted in a variety of ways in Washington, including pharmacy diversion, "doctor shopping," and improper prescribing practices by physicians. Pharmacy diversion occurs when pharmacy employees steal products from the shelves or through prescription forgeries. Diversion through 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 legitimately be prescribed. Law enforcement authorities report that some abusers also obtain OxyContin legally from suppliers in Canada and smuggle it into Washington. In February 2002 the Northwest Drug Task Force in Bellingham reported that Native Americans from the Lumni Reservation purchase OxyContin in Canada and transport it to Washington for personal use and limited distribution.

Hospital Administrator Charged With Forging Prescriptions

In April 2001 law enforcement authorities in Olympia arrested a hospital administrator who had forged more than 80 prescriptions for OxyContin from 1998 through March 2001 for his own use. The forged prescriptions were filled at nine pharmacies throughout the Olympia area.

Source: Lacey Police Department.

Pharmaceutical abuse has led to an increased number of pharmacy and residential burglaries, shoplifting incidents, and healthcare fraud incidents in Washington. Law enforcement authorities with the Clark-Skamania Narcotics Task Force, Columbia River Drug Task Force, Grant County Sheriff's Office, Spokane Police Department, and Washington State Patrol report increased rates of pharmacy and residential burglaries within their jurisdictions. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 most diverted pharmaceuticals sold for $5 to $10 per tablet or dosage unit, and OxyContin sold for $1 per milligram.


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