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A National Drug Threat Assessment – 2009

30 December 2008

A people’s greatest madness is usually hidden from them.  So it is with America’s war on drugs.  Generation after generation it goes on at vast cost — both in terms of money and the damage it does to our society.  Like prohibition.  Will the recession end the war on drugs”, as the Great Depression ended prohibition?

As of not the war rolls on mindlessly, as seen in the National Threat Assessments produced by the National Drug Intelligence Center of the US Department of Justice. 

NDIC’s annual National Drug Threat Assessment gives policymakers and counterdrug executives a timely, predictive report on the threat of drugs, gangs, and violence. We synthesize the views of local, state, regional, and federal agencies to produce a comprehensive picture of this threat.

National Drug Threat Assessment 2009, December 2008 –  PDF, 12.7 MB pdf

This assessment provides a strategic overview and predictive outlook of drug trafficking and abuse trends within the United States. The assessment identifies the primary drug threats to the nation, tracks drug availability throughout the country, and analyzes trafficking and distribution patterns of illicit drugs within the United States. It evaluates the threat posed by illegal drugs by examining availability, production and cultivation, transportation, distribution, and demand.

The report draws many conclusions, none of which offer any prospect of a quick end to the war.

The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs inflict tremendous harm upon individuals, families, and communities throughout the country. The violence, intimidation, theft, and financial crimes carried out by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), criminal groups, gangs, and drug users in the United States pose a significant threat to our nation. The cost to society from drug production, trafficking, and abuse is difficult to fully measure or convey; however, the most recent data available are helpful in framing the extent of the threat. For example:

  1. More than 35 million individuals used illicit drugs or abused prescription drugs in 2007.
  2. In 2006 individuals entered public drug treatment facilities more than 1 million times seeking assistance in ending their addiction to illicit or prescription drugs.
  3. More than 1,100 children were injured at, killed at, or removed from methamphetamine laboratory sites from 2007 through September 2008.
  4. For 2009 the federal government has allocated more than $14 billion for drug treatment and prevention, counterdrug law enforcement, drug interdiction, and international counterdrug assistance.
  5. In September 2008 there were nearly 100,000 inmates in federal prisons convicted and sentenced for drug offenses, representing more than 52 percent of all federal prisoners.
  6. In 2007 more than 1.8 million drug-related arrests in the United States were carried out by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
  7. Mexican and Colombian DTOs generate, remove, and launder between $18 billion and $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds annually.
  8. Diversion of controlled prescription drugs costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually, nearly two-thirds of which is paid by public insurers.

DTOs rapidly adapt to law enforcement and policy initiatives that disrupt their drug trafficking operations. Law enforcement and intelligence reporting revealed several strategic shifts by DTOs in drug production and trafficking in 2007 and early 2008, attributed in part to the success of counterdrug agencies in disrupting the operations of DTOs. Many of these shifts represent immediate new challenges for policymakers and resource planners. The National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 outlines the progress and emerging counterdrug challenges in detailed strategic findings, including the following:

(a)  Mexican DTOs represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States. The influence of Mexican DTOs over domestic drug trafficking is unrivaled. In fact, intelligence estimates indicate a vast majority of the cocaine available in U.S. drug markets is smuggled by Mexican DTOs across the U.S.–Mexico border. Mexican DTOs control drug distribution in most U.S. cities, and they are gaining strength in markets that they do not yet control.

(b)  Violent urban gangs control most retail-level drug distribution nationally, and some have relocated from inner cities to suburban and rural areas. Moreover, gangs are increasing their involvement in wholesale-level drug distribution, aided by their connections with Mexican and Asian DTOs.

(c)  Mexican DTOs will most likely continue to establish new markets for Mexican heroin in northeastern states. Recent encroachments by Mexican heroin distributors into more northeastern drug markets most likely indicate a determination on the part of Mexican DTOs to expand Mexican heroin distribution in new market areas.

(d)  The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 was enacted in October 2008 and will most likely reduce the number of rogue Internet pharmacies selling controlled prescription drugs. The federal law amends the Controlled Substances Act and prohibits the delivery, distribution, or dispensing of controlled prescription drugs over the Internet without a prescription written by a doctor who has conducted at least one in-person examination of the patient.

(e)  Treatment admissions for MDMA addiction may increase. Treatment admissions for MDMA addiction may increase as the distribution of MDMA tablets adulterated with highly addictive substances, such as methamphetamine, increases.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts about the drug war:

  1. Is Mexico unraveling?, 28 April 2008
  2. “High Stakes South of the Border”, 13 May 2008
  3. “Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?”, 14 May 2008
  4. Stratfor: the Mexican cartels strike at Phoenix, AZ, 6 July 2008
  5. “Drug cartels ‘threaten’ Mexican democracy”, 24 July 2008
  6. Stratfor reports on Mexico, news ignored by our mainstream media, 19 August 2008

Other intelligence community reports about the future:

CIA and National Intelligence Center reports looking at the future

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 December 2008 1:24 am

    Gosh, ya think some of this could be changed to the benefit of society? 35 million people is what percentage of those over, say, age 16?

    Perhaps the original marijuana prohibition was some sort of scam passed over the objections of the AMA and the ABA, while Congress was lied to? And maybe the liquor lobby and the psychological medication lobby and the law enforcement lobby are all getting rich five ways from Sunday on this? And for what? Just another example of the endemic corruption. All levels of the culture. The government, the organized religions, the business community… theoretically the ‘pillars’ of society… rotten to the core.

    If we continue to tolerate this we deserve what we get.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: The absurdity of our drug war is seen clearly by watching Reefer Madness (1936) — remember, it was produced as a documentary, not a comedy.

  2. Yve permalink
    30 December 2008 7:22 am

    Why is it that Americans can understand supply and demand for any other commodity, but somehow doesn’t get it with drugs? Solve your social problems i.e. poverty, poor educational levels, etc., and you will solve your drug problems. It is not the producers, it’s the consumers who are the problem. As long as there is demand there will be those willing to supply. Quit terrorizing farmers in third world countries who have been forced into growing drug crops because our greedy futures market gamblers & multinationals play havoc with legitimate commodity prices. Stem the demand by growing a health society and institute fair trade practices.

  3. seneca permalink
    30 December 2008 5:57 pm

    Yves is right, and furthermore does what FM recommends in the post just after this, puts the issue in a wider context — the expropriation of third world agriculture by US capital.

    The War on Drugs is a conceptual monster more complex thant the GWOT. It started as a political diversion, an attempt to seem to be doing something about a social issue that could have been treated in a number of less spectacular ways. It developed domestic lobbies in the prison-industrial complex (see Greg’s comment above); an ideological base in conservative and religioius sectors; and a high-level investor in the CIA, which learned to operate on both sides of the fence, both profiting from the drug trade, and disguising its paramilitary operations as operations against it.

    The war on drugs can be seen as a progenitor of the war on terror, the problem arising from roughly the same third world societial situations; the solution justifying the same kind of US military presence overseas; the propaganda value consisting in the same distraction of of the US domestic population with the spectre of distant enemies. An important cultural sub-theme feeding both wars is racism.

  4. 31 December 2008 5:04 pm

    Have no fear. The US is due to split into several pieces within the next two years, according to a top Russian theorist. After that, there will be no need to agonize over US policy, as no such nation will exist.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Prof Igor Panarin is a Russian professor of political sciences as well as Dean of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Academy in Moscow (brief bio here).

    His prediction is absurd fantasy. Ironic, since a few years of $40 oil prices might bankrupt Russia. They need much higher oil prices ($70+, perhaps) to finance their imports and fund their government.

    For more on this nonsense, see this transcript of his interview in Izvestia (24 November 2008). The Izvestia link is broken, but the text appears here.

  5. 31 December 2008 8:03 pm

    Drug regulations have been badly written. I’m not favoring legalizing much of anything, but I would like to see the laws enforced more equally. The Three Stikes Laws are simply awful. I tend to think they violate our amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

    Also, possession of powdered “Caucasian” Cocaine should entitle a user to no worse or no more lenient a sentence than toting a bag full of crack. Often the drug wars are used as pretexts to clean undesirables off the streets and enact a set of penalties and procedures that would never fly without “reefer madness” as a pretext.

  6. 1 January 2009 1:46 am

    Legalization and stricter than alcohol (or cigarette) regulation is what the US should do.

    This is one of the very few policies my wife disagrees with me on — legal (and cheaper) drugs will increase drug use, even if it decreases other problems.

    I believe that most anti-drug folk are willing to accept the terrible costs of the drug war, mostly to ‘others’, in order to reduce the probability that their own kids try ‘legal’ drugs. It’s not irrational to accept high costs for others, to reduce the likelihood of your own kids having a problem.

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