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Texas Drug Threat Assessment
October 2003

Other Dangerous Drugs

Other dangerous drugs (ODDs) include the club drugs MDMA, GHB and its analogs, ketamine, LSD, and Rohypnol; the hallucinogen PCP; and diverted pharmaceuticals. MDMA is readily available and abused in Texas and poses a considerable drug threat to the state. Other ODDs present varying threats to Texas. Various criminal groups transport club drugs into Texas via private vehicles, commercial aircraft, couriers on foot (crossing the U.S.-Mexico border), and package delivery services. Club drugs primarily are sold and abused by middle-class, suburban teenagers and young adults at raves and nightclubs and on college campuses. PCP generally is distributed by local independent dealers throughout the state. Pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), alprazolam (Xanax), and cough syrup with codeine typically are diverted through a variety of techniques including pharmacy diversion, "doctor shopping," and improper prescribing practices by physicians. 


Club Drugs

Club drugs consist of illicit drugs that are commonly diverted and used at dance clubs and raves, including MDMA, GHB and its analogs, ketamine, LSD, and Rohypnol. These drugs are increasingly being used in suburban and rural areas. Club drugs are becoming increasingly popular in Texas, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Club drugs are a major concern among law enforcement and health professionals in Texas, who report increasing availability and use.


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 permanent dance clubs or temporary weekend event sites set up in abandoned warehouses, open fields, empty buildings, or civic centers. MDMA is one of the most popular drugs distributed at raves. 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. 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, reportedly helps users to become more "in touch" with others and "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.

Teenagers and young adults are the primary abusers of MDMA; however, MDMA is gaining popularity among older users. According to TCADA, MDMA-related treatment admissions to TCADA-funded treatment facilities increased from 63 in 1998 to 521 in 2002. MDMA is widely available throughout Texas, particularly in metropolitan areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. DAWN data indicate that MDMA ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased dramatically from 17 in 1997 to 77 in 2001. Contributing to the threat is increasing MDMA availability in suburban and rural areas. Law enforcement authorities in Bee, Gonzales, and Wharton Counties report increased MDMA availability in their jurisdictions.

MDMA Use Lower Among Students Living Near the U.S.-Mexico Border

MDMA use is lower among students in the border region of Texas than in other areas in the state. The 2002 Texas School Survey of Substance Use Among Students: Grades 7-12, reported that 6 percent of students in grades 7 through 12 living in the border region used MDMA at least once during their lifetime, and 2.6 percent used MDMA in the past month. By comparison, 9 percent of students living elsewhere in the state reported lifetime use of MDMA, and 3.2 percent reported past month use.

Source: Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Most of the MDMA abused in Texas is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. MDMA production may be emerging in Texas, but to a very limited extent. MDMA is smuggled into Texas from Canada, Europe, and Mexico primarily by Israeli criminal groups. To a lesser extent, Dominican criminal groups also smuggle MDMA into Texas. MDMA transporters use several means to smuggle the drug, including couriers on foot entering the United States from Mexico, couriers traveling on commercial and private aircraft, private vehicles, and via package delivery services.

Caucasian local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Asian criminal groups, are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of MDMA in Texas. Many retail-level MDMA distributors in Texas are middle and upper-middle class Caucasian high school or college students. MDMA typically is distributed at colleges, raves, nightclubs, and private parties. MDMA distributed in Texas often is stamped with a brand name or a logo. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 MDMA sold for $25 per tablet in Dallas, $16 to $20 per tablet in El Paso, and $10 to $30 per tablet in Houston.

MDMA also is transported from Texas to destinations in other U.S. states. For example, some Asian criminal groups transport shipments of MDMA from Texas, primarily overland, to major drug markets on the East Coast.

Large MDMA Seizure in Jefferson County

On January 9, 2003, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department seized over 45,000 MDMA tablets and $300,000 from an automobile traveling east on I-10 in Beaumont. According to the Sheriff's Department, an officer stopped the vehicle because it was being operated erratically. When the officer approached the vehicle, the driver was unable to roll down the window and had to exit the vehicle to speak with the officer. The driver consented to a search of the vehicle, at which time the drugs and money were discovered inside the driver's side door. All three occupants of the vehicle were arrested and charged with aggravated possession of a controlled substance. The three suspects were of Vietnamese descent and allegedly were en route from Houston to Connecticut.

Source: Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

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GHB and Analogs. GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs are available throughout the state; they pose a low and relatively stable drug threat to Texas.

According to data from Texas Poison Control Centers, the number of confirmed exposures to GHB or its analogs increased from 110 in 1998 to 153 in 1999, then decreased to 100 in 2002. DAWN data indicate that GHB ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased significantly from 72 in 1997 to 128 in 2001. In 2001 Dallas had the third-highest rate of GHB ED mentions per 100,000 population among the 21 metropolitan areas reporting to DAWN.

GHB is a depressant that occurs naturally in the body. Synthetic (man-made) GHB and its analogs--drugs that possess chemical structures that closely resemble GHB--are known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, fantasy, and Georgia home boy. GHB and its analogs increasingly have been 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.

GHB available in Texas typically is sold and abused at social venues such as bars, nightclubs, and raves. According to DEA, during the fourth quarter of FY2002 GHB sold for $5 to $25 per dosage unit in Dallas and Houston. Young adults, particularly Caucasians, are the principal retail distributors and abusers of the drug. GHB analogs typically are obtained at disreputable health food stores, gyms, and via the Internet.

Ketamine. The threat posed to Texas by the distribution and abuse of ketamine is relatively low. According to Texas Poison Control Centers, 8 confirmed exposures to ketamine were reported in 1998, 7 in 1999, 15 in 2000, 14 in 2001, and 10 in 2002. DAWN data indicate that ketamine ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased from 3 in 1997 to 11 in 2001.

Ketamine is also known as K, special K, vitamin K, ket, kit-kat, and cat valium. Ketamine was placed on the Schedule III Controlled Substances list in the United States on July 13, 1999. However, the drug is still available over the counter in Mexico where it is sold as Kelar. It is an injectable anesthetic that in the United States is used legally as an animal tranquilizer. Ketamine abusers obtain the drug in liquid, powder, or tablet form. In its liquid form it can be injected either intramuscularly or intravenously. In its powder form ketamine resembles cocaine or methamphetamine and often is snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products.

High doses of ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Low doses impair attention, learning ability, and memory. Short-term use of ketamine causes hallucinations; its major effect is dissociation, which includes out-of-body and near-death experiences. Ketamine gained popularity among abusers in the 1980s when it was discovered that large doses caused reactions similar to those experienced with PCP.

Ketamine usually is diverted from legitimate sources, primarily veterinary clinics, and is typically sold in Texas at locations such as nightclubs, raves, and techno parties. It also is sold over the Internet. According to DEA, ketamine sold for $2,200 to $2,500 per liter during the fourth quarter of FY2002 in Dallas; no other pricing information was available.

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LSD. The distribution and abuse of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) poses a low threat to Texas. 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.

LSD is primarily available in urban areas of Texas, such as Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Midland, Plano, San Antonio, and Texarkana. Most of the LSD available in Texas is produced in California and typically is transported into the state by independent dealers in private vehicles. Caucasian college and high school students are the primary distributors of LSD. They generally sell the drug to teenagers and young adults at raves, bars, nightclubs, and on college campuses. LSD is typically available in powder and liquid forms, in tablets or capsules, on pieces of blotter paper that absorb the drug, on gelatin cubes, and on sugar cubes. LSD is also available in various colors in gel tab form.

LSD prices vary depending on location. According to DEA, LSD sold for $1 to $10 per dose at the retail level in Dallas and $5 to $20 per dose in El Paso during the fourth quarter of FY2002. (Wholesale prices were not available.) In Houston LSD sold for $450 per ounce at the wholesale level and $10 per dose at the retail level during the fourth quarter of FY2002.

Rohypnol. Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) poses a relatively stable drug threat, primarily along the Texas-Mexico border. According to Texas Poison Control Centers, the number of confirmed exposures to Rohypnol increased from 100 in 1998 to 124 in 2000. Treatment admissions for the abuse of Rohypnol indicate relatively stable patterns of Rohypnol abuse. According to TCADA, there were 364 Rohypnol-related admissions to TCADA-funded treatment facilities in 1999, 324 in 2000, 397 in 2001, and 368 in 2002.

Rohypnol, also called roofies, rophies, Roche, and the forget-me pill, belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which also includes Valium, Klonopin, Halcion, Xanax, and Versed. Rohypnol is not approved for prescription use in the United States. Rohypnol is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves completely in liquid. It produces sedative-hypnotic effects, including muscle relaxation and amnesia, and can cause physiological and psychological dependence. Rohypnol often is used in the commission of drug-facilitated sexual assault because of its sedative properties. The effects of Rohypnol can impair or incapacitate a victim for 8 to 12 hours, and are exacerbated by the use of alcohol.

Rohypnol is sold and abused in Texas commonly at social venues such as bars, nightclubs, and raves throughout the state. Young adults are the principal retail distributors and abusers of the drug.

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PCP. PCP (phencyclidine) is available throughout Texas but, for the most part, availability is limited to urban areas such as Dallas and Houston. DAWN data indicate that PCP ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased from 36 in 1997 to 96 in 2001.

PCP was developed as an intravenous anesthetic, but use of the drug in humans was discontinued in 1965 because patients became agitated, delusional, and irrational while recovering from its effects. PCP, also known as angel dust, embalming fluid, ozone, wack, and rocket fuel, is illegally produced in laboratories in the United States. It is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in water and has a bitter taste. The drug can be mixed with dyes and is available as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or colored powder.

PCP may be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed. When smoked, PCP is often applied to mint, parsley, oregano, tobacco, or marijuana. When combined with marijuana, the mixture is called a killer joint or crystal supergrass. Another method of PCP administration involves dipping a marijuana cigarette in a solution of PCP-laced embalming fluid and smoking it. This combination is known as fry or amp. A study conducted by TCADA revealed that fry abusers often are unaware that marijuana cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid usually contain PCP. Street dealers reportedly add the hallucinogen to embalming fluid prior to dipping the cigarettes. In 2000 there were 121 marijuana-related calls to the Texas Poison Control Centers that also involved formaldehyde, fry, amp, or PCP; in 2001 there were 155.

Most of the PCP available in Texas is produced in California and typically is transported into the state by local independent dealers in private vehicles. According to data from Operations Pipeline and Jetway, in 2000 state and local law enforcement officers in Texas seized a total of 14.8 kilograms of PCP that were transported (or intended for transport) aboard commercial buses and a total of 1.6 kilograms that were transported in private vehicles. In addition, 10 of the 19 PCP seizures under Operations Pipeline and Jetway in the U.S. occurred in Texas. There were no PCP seizures from commercial vehicles reported under Operation Convoy in 2000.

Local independent dealers are the primary distributors of PCP in the state. PCP is also distributed by street gangs primarily in the Houston area. Prices for the drug vary depending on location. According to DEA, liquid PCP sold for $3,800 per 16-ounce bottle and $350 to $500 per ounce at the wholesale level in Dallas. The drug sold for $100 per gram at the retail level in Houston during the fourth quarter of FY2002. PCP-laced cigarettes sold for $25 each at the retail level in Dallas.

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Diverted Pharmaceuticals

Diverted pharmaceuticals pose an increasing threat to Texas. The most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in the state include hydrocodone (Vicodin), alprazolam (Xanax), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), oxycodone (OxyContin), cough syrup with codeine, steroids, nasal spray (Stadol), and carisoprodol (Soma).

Dextromethorphan Abuse by Youth

School personnel in Texas have been reporting problems with the abuse of dextromethorphan (DXM), especially the use of Robitussin-DM, Tussin, and Coricidin Cough and Cold Tablets HBP. These substances can be purchased over the counter and, if taken in large quantities, can product hallucinogenic effects. Coricidin HBP pills are known as Triple Cs or Skittles.

Outreach workers in the Houston area report an emerging trend in the use of Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold pills (Triple Cs) by adolescents, with some recent admissions to treatment for abuse of these pills.

Source: Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center.

Pharmaceuticals are diverted in a variety of ways in Texas, 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.

According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 most diverted pharmaceuticals sold for $2 to $10 per dosage unit.

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