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Drug Threat Overview

The distribution and abuse of cocaine (particularly crack), followed by heroin and marijuana, are the primary drug threats in the Chicago HIDTA region. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2010, 57 of the 127 federal, state, and local law enforcement respondents in the Chicago HIDTA and metropolitan area identify cocaine as the drug that poses the greatest threat to their jurisdictions, 36 identify heroin, and 31 identify marijuana. (See Figure 2.) In 2009, Chicago HIDTA initiatives reported the seizure of 981 kilograms of cocaine, 142 kilograms of heroin, and 10,671 kilograms of marijuana.

Wholesale cocaine availability in Chicago stabilized somewhat in 2009; however, cocaine remains less available than in 2006. Law enforcement officials are no longer reporting the chronic cocaine shortages experienced in the HIDTA region during 2007 and 2008. Wholesale prices for cocaine in Chicago increased slightly from December 2008 ($25,000 to $31,000 per kg) to December 2009 ($28,000 to $33,000 per kg). Additionally, cocaine purity levels in the region declined from 2007 through 2009, indicating increased cutting of cocaine by traffickers to stretch supplies or increase profits. Law enforcement agencies in the region report an increase in the incidence of "re-rocking" by traffickers in the region. Re-rocking is the process of diluting kilograms of powder cocaine and re-forming the drug into kilogram bricks with a hydraulic press to make it appear authentic and uncut.

Heroin availability is high in the Chicago HIDTA region. Most of the heroin available in the HIDTA region is South American (SA), principally supplied by Mexican traffickers. Mexican brown powder heroin, black tar heroin, and Southwest Asian (SWA) heroin are also available in Chicago, but to a much lesser extent. Law enforcement officials report increased heroin seizures, likely indicating increased heroin availability. Of significant concern to law enforcement and public health officials are the varied street-level heroin purities, which could result in increased heroin-related overdose deaths. Law enforcement officials suspect that street-level purities in the region are highly variable because retail-level distributors are not cutting the heroin consistently. Additionally, a growing number of heroin abusers travel from suburban areas and neighboring states to the region to purchase heroin, further contributing to the heroin problem in surrounding communities. For example, in 2009, several suburban Chicago counties reported an increase in heroin-related overdose deaths. Law enforcement officials report that the source of the heroin is most likely the Chicago HIDTA region.

High-potency marijuana is increasingly available in the region. Law enforcement officials report that increased importation of high-potency marijuana from Canada and the West Coast to the HIDTA region and an increase in local cultivation are contributing to this rising availability. Additionally, various branded types or strains of high-potency marijuana such as "Kush"e are marketed to create demand and are sold at higher prices to increase profits. Commercial-grade marijuana remains widely available.

The availability of MDMA is increasing in the region, particularly in African American and Hispanic communities, as a result of increased distribution by street gangs. Additionally, law enforcement officials report increased seizures of MDMA and BZP, a controlled prescription stimulant often sold as MDMA or promoted as an alternative to MDMA. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada-based DTOs also produce adulterated MDMA tablets, and in some instances, tablets marketed as MDMA contain little, if any, MDMA.

The availability of methamphetamine, controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), and other dangerous drugs (ODDs) varies throughout the region. Even though methamphetamine availability in the region is low, wholesale quantities of ice methamphetamine transit the Chicago HIDTA region en route to other midwestern markets. CPDs and ODDs such as PCP (phencyclidine), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), khat, and ketamine are available in the region, but to a much lesser extent than other drugs.


e. High-potency marijuana is commonly marketed with brand names to promote sales of certain types of marijuana that exhibit unique characteristics, such as a particular smell, taste, or appearance.

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