ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
Arizona Drug Threat Assessment
Other Dangerous Drugs
Other dangerous drugs (ODDs) include club drugs such as MDMA, GHB and its analogs, ketamine, the hallucinogens LSD and PCP, and Rohypnol. ODDs also include inhalants and diverted pharmaceuticals. MDMA is readily available and abused in Arizona and poses a considerable threat to the state. Other ODDs present varying threats to Arizona. Various criminal groups and independent dealers transport ODDs to Arizona via private vehicles, couriers on commercial and private aircraft, couriers traveling by foot entering the United States from Mexico, and package delivery services. Club drugs primarily are sold and abused by middle-class, suburban, young adults at raves and nightclubs and on college campuses. Hallucinogens are also distributed by local independent dealers throughout the state. Pharmaceuticals such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan), steroids, and codeine typically are diverted through a variety of techniques including "doctor shopping," pharmacy diversion, prescription forgery, smuggling from Mexico, and purchasing over the Internet, particularly from foreign sources such as Mexico.
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, PCP, and Rohypnol. Club drugs are becoming increasingly popular in Arizona, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Club drugs are a major concern among law enforcement and health professionals in Arizona, who report increasing availability and use. According to the 2001 ACJC Survey of Narcotics Officers, 80 percent of respondents reported club drug abuse as a problem in their jurisdictions and 78 percent reported investigations involving club drugs. The increasing number of incidents involving MDMA abuse is of particular concern.
MDMA. Also known as Adam, ecstasy, XTC, E, and X, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) 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 abuse is growing in Arizona. According to the DEA Phoenix Division, MDMA abuse is expanding beyond the nightclub scene due to abuser perceptions that the drug is not dangerous. DAWN data indicate that MDMA ED mentions in the Phoenix metropolitan area increased dramatically from 6 in 1997 to 96 in 2001. Increasing MDMA availability in suburban and rural areas contributes to the threat.
MDMA abuse is fairly common among youth in Arizona. According to the ACJC 2002 State of Arizona Youth Survey, 8.3 percent of junior and senior high school students surveyed in 2002 reported that they had used MDMA at least once in their lifetime; only marijuana and inhalants had higher percentages of reported use. Of the students surveyed, 12.0 percent of twelfth grade students, 8.2 percent of tenth grade students, and 5.5 percent of eighth grade students in Arizona reported using MDMA at least once in their lifetime.
MDMA is widely available in virtually all major metropolitan areas such as Phoenix and Tucson. In addition, availability is increasing in suburban areas and smaller towns, according to law enforcement officials throughout the state. Moreover, the Scottsdale Police Department reported that MDMA is the most prevalent drug of abuse in its jurisdiction.
Most of the MDMA available in Arizona is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium; however, MDMA also is produced to a very limited extent in Arizona. In October 2001 law enforcement officials arrested a college professor for producing MDMA. He had purchased precursor chemicals through the college and used equipment from the college to produce the drug. The man distributed the drug within Arizona and in California and Idaho. In May 2000 law enforcement officials seized an MDMA laboratory operated by Caucasian college students in Flagstaff.
MDMA is smuggled into Arizona from Europe and, to an increasing extent, from Mexico and transported from states such as California and Nevada, primarily by Israeli and Asian criminal groups. Mexican DTOs also smuggle MDMA across the Arizona portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, but to a much lesser extent. MDMA is transported using a variety of means such as couriers on foot entering the United States from Mexico, couriers traveling on commercial and private aircraft, private vehicles, and package delivery services. Couriers are increasingly transporting MDMA from Europe into Mexico by air and then smuggling it across the Arizona portion of the U.S.-Mexico border by vehicle to avoid customs officials at airports. Independent dealers and abusers often travel to border towns in Mexico to purchase MDMA. The drug is transported from Las Vegas and Los Angeles primarily by private vehicle. MDMA increasingly is being transported into the state by package delivery services.
Asian and Caucasian criminal groups and independent dealers are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of MDMA in Arizona. OMGs such as Hells Angels and street gangs such as Devil Dogs also distribute MDMA at the retail level. Many retail-level MDMA distributors are middle- and upper-middle-class Caucasian high school or college age students. MDMA distribution at the retail level typically occurs at the point of use such as raves or bars. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 MDMA sold for $5 per tablet for 10,000 tablets, $7 to $10 per tablet for 1,000 tablets, and $20 to $25 for a single tablet.
GHB and Analogs. GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and its analogs (see text box) pose a low but increasing drug threat to Arizona. 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 also are known as liquid MDMA, scoop, grievous bodily harm, 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. In the Phoenix metropolitan area GHB-related ED mentions decreased from 19 in 2001 to 14 in 2002, according to DAWN.
GHB is sold and abused at social venues such as bars, nightclubs, and raves and on college campuses. Caucasian adolescents and young adults are the predominant distributors and abusers of GHB. Law enforcement officials throughout Arizona have reported increased availability and abuse of GHB in their jurisdictions, particularly in small towns.
Law enforcement officials in Arizona report the availability of GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), an analog of GHB, in the state. GBL is used legitimately as a wax stripper or health supplement. It is widely sold in powder and liquid form at gyms, fitness centers, health food stores, and via the Internet. In March 2000 Arizona law enforcement officials arrested a Phoenix man who sold GBL nationwide over the Internet. He bought 55-gallon drums from distributors for $1,000 and sold the drums for $3,200 each. He also sold GBL in 25-pound containers for $400 each. He used package delivery services to transport 55-gallon drums of GBL to distributors in cities throughout the United States including Albuquerque, Boca Raton (FL), Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Lansdale (PA). Law enforcement officials seized 33 55-gallon drums of GBL from the operation.
Ketamine. The threat posed to Arizona by the distribution and abuse of ketamine is relatively stable. Ketamine, also known as K, special K, vitamin K, ket, kit-kat, and cat valium, is sold commercially as Ketalar. Ketamine was placed on the Schedule III controlled substance list in the United States on July 13, 1999. However, the drug is still available over the counter in Mexico, where it is known as Kelar. It is an injectable anesthetic that has been approved for both human and animal use. Ketamine is produced in liquid, powder, or tablet form. In its liquid form, it can be injected either intramuscularly or intravenously. In powdered form, ketamine can be mistaken for 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 effects similar to those experienced with PCP. According to DAWN, ketamine-related ED mentions in the Phoenix metropolitan area increased from 4 in 2001 to 13 in 2002.
Ketamine is available in Arizona and typically is sold at nightclubs and raves. Several police departments throughout Arizona have reported increased availability and abuse of the drug. Ketamine is predominantly abused by young adults and often is abused with MDMA, a practice known as trail-mixing. Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary distributors of ketamine in the state; however, the Phoenix Police Department reports that Asian local independent dealers also distribute the drug. Distributors typically purchase ketamine at pharmacies in Mexican border towns and smuggle it into Arizona or divert the drug from legitimate sources, primarily veterinary clinics. Law enforcement officials seized 3,544 bottles of ketamine in February 2002 and 3,970 bottles of ketamine in January 2002 during vehicle interdictions in northern Arizona.
LSD. The distribution and abuse of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) pose a low threat to Arizona. 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. According to DAWN, LSD-related ED mentions in the Phoenix metropolitan area increased from 71 in 1997 to 156 in 1999, then decreased to 62 in 2001 and 15 in 2002.
LSD is primarily available in urban areas of Arizona; however, its availability is increasing in some suburban areas and smaller towns. Most of the LSD available in Arizona is produced in California and is transported into the state by local independent dealers in private vehicles. Caucasian young adults are the primary distributors and abusers of LSD in the state. The Phoenix Police Department reports that Asian independent dealers also distribute the drug in its jurisdiction. The drug is predominantly sold at raves, bars, nightclubs, and on college campuses. LSD is typically available as powder, liquid, tablets, capsules, gel tabs, and on pieces of blotter paper that absorb the drug.
LSD prices vary depending on the quantity purchased. According to DEA, one dosage unit of blotter LSD sold for $2 to $3, while liquid LSD in breath mint bottles (approximately 90 dosage units) sold for $140 to $150 per bottle in the second quarter of FY2002.
PCP. The distribution and abuse of the hallucinogen PCP (phencyclidine) pose a low but increasing threat to Arizona, particularly Phoenix. 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 produced illegally 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 often is applied to mint, parsley, oregano, tobacco, or marijuana. When combined with marijuana, the mixture is called killer joint or crystal supergrass. PCP also is administered by dipping a marijuana cigarette in a solution of PCP-laced embalming fluid and smoking it. This combination is known as fry or amp.
PCP is available primarily in Phoenix; it is available in other areas of Arizona, but to a much lesser extent. In the Phoenix metropolitan area, PCP-related ED mentions increased from 40 in 1997 to 61 in 2001 and 83 in 2002, according to DAWN. Most PCP in Arizona is produced in California and transported into the state primarily by local independent dealers in private vehicles. Local independent dealers are the primary distributors of PCP in the state. However, the Phoenix Police Department reported that street gangs distribute PCP in its jurisdiction. PCP typically is distributed at the same venues as club drugs and primarily is abused by young adults.
Rohypnol. Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a low but increasing drug threat to Arizona. Rohypnol, also called roofies, rophies, Roche, and the forget-me pill, belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which also includes Valium, 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 assaults 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 predominantly abused by young adults in Arizona. Several police departments throughout Arizona have reported increased availability and abuse of the drug. Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary distributors of Rohypnol in the state; however, the Yuma Police Department reports that Hispanic street gangs also distribute the drug. Distributors typically purchase Rohypnol at pharmacies in Mexican border towns and smuggle it into Arizona for personal use and distribution. La Paz County law enforcement officials reported that Rohypnol has been used in the commission of sexual assaults in their jurisdiction.
Inhalant abuse among Arizona youth is a significant problem. Inhalant abuse, also known as huffing, is the sniffing of common household products such as paint, gasoline, and hair spray. Sniffing inhalants introduces toxins into the body that can damage the liver, lungs, kidney, and brain or even cause death. According to the ACJC 2002 State of Arizona Youth Survey, 10.9 percent of junior and senior high school students surveyed reported that they had used inhalants at least once in their lifetime. Of the students surveyed, 10.1 percent of Arizona twelfth grade students, 10.4 percent of tenth grade students, and 11.9 percent of eighth grade students reported using inhalants at least once in their lifetime. Inhalants ranked second to marijuana for the highest percentage of eighth and tenth grade students who reported having tried these substances.
Side effects associated with the abuse of inhalants include dizziness, strong hallucinations, delusions, belligerence, apathy, and impaired judgment. Long-term abusers experience additional problems including weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression. Chronic inhalant abuse may cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user's heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, and slurred speech. Death can occur after a single use of inhalants or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant abuse from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure.
Nitrous oxide is readily available in Arizona. Nitrous oxide can be purchased in canisters (whippets) at head shops (retail outlets that cater to drug users), catering supply stores, and over the Internet. Nitrous oxide also is commonly sold at raves in whippets or inflated balloons. Abusers typically use the gas to inflate a balloon and then breathe in the gas from the balloon. Nitrous oxide-filled balloons typically are sold at raves for $2 to $5 each. In response to growing abuse among youth, the Arizona legislature passed a law in April 2001 making it illegal for individuals to knowingly sell, give, or deliver a nitrous oxide container to an individual under the age of 18.
Diverted pharmaceuticals pose an increasing threat to Arizona. An estimated 15 percent of drug treatment provided in Phoenix is attributed to the abuse of diverted pharmaceuticals. The Scottsdale Police Department reports that the abuse of pharmaceuticals increases when MDMA availability decreases. Pharmaceuticals are diverted and abused by a variety of individuals ranging from adolescents to older adults. The most commonly diverted pharmaceuticals in Arizona include hydrocodone (Vicodin), benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan), diazepam (Valium), steroids, and codeine.
Pharmaceuticals are diverted in a variety of ways in Arizona, including "doctor shopping," pharmacy diversion, prescription forgery, smuggling from Mexico, and purchasing over the Internet, particularly from foreign sources such as Mexico. Doctor shopping is a practice by which individuals who may or may not have a legitimate ailment visit numerous physicians to obtain drugs in excess of what should be prescribed legitimately. A significant portion of the diverted pharmaceuticals available in Arizona are smuggled from Mexico. Forging prescriptions is the primary method by which pharmaceuticals are diverted in Arizona. According to the DEA Phoenix Division, in 2001 law enforcement officials uncovered an OxyContin prescription fraud group operating in the Phoenix area. The individuals used fraudulent prescriptions and paid for the drugs either with cash or by billing an insurance company using information obtained from stolen medical records. Officials reported that more than 20 individuals were involved in the organization. Diverted pharmaceuticals sold for $1 to $40 per dosage unit in 2002 in Arizona.
End of page.