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Crack cocaine and methamphetamine pose the greatest drug abuse threat to the Atlanta HIDTA region because of the highly addictive nature of the drugs. According to data from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, cocaine is the illicit drug most often mentioned as the primary, secondary, or tertiary substance problem in treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Atlanta HIDTA counties in Georgia. (See Table 3.) Law enforcement officials report that methamphetamine abuse is rising, particularly in southeast sections of Atlanta and within the homosexual community. Heroin abuse is generally low but growing throughout the region. Law enforcement officers characterize the abuse of marijuana as high to moderate.

Table 3. Primary/Secondary/Tertiary Substance Problem at Admission, Atlanta HIDTA Counties in Georgia, State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2007-2009*

Substance Problem at Admission
SFY 2007 SFY 2008 SFY 2009
Cocaine (Powder and Crack) 3,658 3,424 3,389
Heroin/Morphine 305 294 444
Marijuana/Hashish/THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) 2,968 2,837 3,087
Methamphetamine/Speed 569 443 502
All Other Substances, Excluding Alcohol 2,048 1,972 1,377

Source: Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Division of Addictive Diseases.
*This table includes only those admissions to services funded or operated by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (and its predecessor organization) and does not include admissions to services of any other providers, public or private. This is a duplicated count of admissions during the SFY, where the primary, secondary, or tertiary "substance problem at admission" was the substance shown. A single admission may be counted in as many as three categories per admission.

CPD abuse is widespread and is associated with a significant number of overdose deaths in Georgia. The GBI Medical Examiner's Office reported that prescription drugs accounted for more drug overdose deaths than any other substance in Georgia in 2008. Of the 638 drug overdose deaths reported in Georgia in 2008, 543 involved prescription drugs or combinations of illicit and prescription drugs and alcohol.j The most commonly abused CPDs are alprazolam (Xanax), carisoprodol (Soma),k hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, and oxycodone (OxyContin).

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Illicit Finance

Bulk cash transportation represents the principal illicit financial threat in the Atlanta HIDTA region. Millions of dollars in bulk cash are transported each week from U.S. drug markets to relatively few consolidation areas such as Atlanta, where Mexican DTO bulk cash cell leaders take direct control of the money. In fact, the Atlanta area is the principal bulk cash consolidation center for Mexican DTOs operating in the eastern United States. Because Atlanta is between major eastern drug markets and the Southwest Border, bulk cash is transported to stash houses in Atlanta, as well as a number of counties in northern Georgia, from across the southeastern United States and from as far away as New York City. For example, in March 2010, West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers stopped a tractor-trailer westbound on I-40 and discovered more than $1.8 million in bulk cash in the passenger cabin. The driver, a citizen of Mexico, and the passenger, a Hispanic resident of California, claimed to be traveling from New Jersey to Los Angeles via Atlanta. In 2009, Atlanta HIDTA initiatives seized more than $29 million in bulk cash.

Traffickers use other methods to move and launder illicit drug proceeds in the Atlanta HIDTA region. Money services businesses, such as money remitters and check-cashing businesses, are used by traffickers to launder illicit drug proceeds. These businesses allow customers to move proceeds outside the United States with relative anonymity in amounts below the threshold set by the Bank Secrecy Act. Traffickers also purchase small, cash-based businesses such as car washes, clothing stores, and hair and nail salons that they use to commingle illicit proceeds with legitimate funds. In addition, many traffickers launder drug proceeds through the purchase of luxury items such as jewelry, expensive vehicles, real estate, and prepaid (stored value) cards.


j. The GBI Medical Examiner's Office data does not include Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Henry, Hall or Rockdale Counties.

k. Carisoprodol is not controlled under the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970; however, it is scheduled under state law in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and West Virginia.

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