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Drug Availability Within the United States

MDMA Availability

Asian DTOs are responsible for a resurgence in MDMA availability in the United States, particularly since 2005. These groups produce large quantities of the drug in Canada and smuggle it into the United States across the Northern Border. The smuggling of MDMA into the United States from Canada fueled an increase in the availability of the drug that began in 2005, although availability appears to be stabilizing. Data regarding MDMA availability are limited; nonetheless, analysis of National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) data shows a 76 percent increase in the number of MDMA submissions from 2005 to 2008 (see Figure 16), although MDMA submissions make up a much smaller percentage of submissions than other illicit drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) data also provide an indication of MDMA availability. The percentage of state and local law enforcement agencies that reported moderate or high availability of MDMA in their areas increased from 47.2 percent in 2005 to 51.5 percent in 2009.

Figure 16. Number of MDMA Submissions, 2005-2008

Chart showing the number of MDMA submissions, from 2005 to 2008.

Source: National Forensic Laboratory Information System Annual Reports.

Seizure data show that the amount of MDMA seized along the U.S.-Canada border increased 156 percent from 2007 to 2008 (see Figure 17) and that more MDMA was seized at the Northern Border in 2008 than in any year since 2005. MDMA seizure totals declined in 2009 but still exceeded 2007 totals.

Figure 17. Northern Border MDMA Seizures, in Dosage Units, 2005-2009*

Chart showing the number of northern border MDMA seizures, in dosage units, from 2005 to 2009.

Source: National Seizure System.
*Data as of December 1, 2009.

Although most Northern Border seizures occur at POEs, the amount of MDMA seized between POEs appears to be increasing, likely because increased scrutiny at POEs has forced smugglers to develop new routes and smuggling methods in an attempt to circumvent law enforcement. For example, in 2008, more than 243,000 dosage units18 of MDMA were seized between POEs, compared with none the previous year; seizures between POEs in 2009 exceeded those in 2008.

MDMA seizures along the Southwest Border and through commercial air have also increased, albeit on a much smaller scale. Seizures at or near the Southwest Border show an increase from 114,286 dosage units in 2006 to 387,143 dosage units in 2009. Furthermore, commercial air seizures spiked in 2008, with a 91.4 percent increase from 2007 to 2008 (433,571 dosage units to 829,857 dosage units); MDMA commercial air seizure totals for 2009 decreased, resulting in levels comparable to 2007 levels.

Ready availability of MDMA has enabled distributors to expand their customer base to include new user groups, most notably African American and Hispanic users. Asian DTOs have begun distributing MDMA to African American and Hispanic street gangs, which distribute the drug along with other illicit drugs in markets throughout the United States, most notably in the Southeast, Southwest, and Great Lakes Regions. Moreover, MDMA is no longer exclusively viewed as a "rave" or club drug, which also aids distributors in selling it to nontraditional abusers.


18. MDMA tablets vary in size and weight depending on the manufacturing process, the type of pill press being used, and the amount of adulterants incorporated into the tablet. Therefore a standard dosage unit of 140 milligrams per tablet is used to convert other units of measure, such as kilograms, for consistency and estimates on total dosage units.

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