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Illegal Drugs Becoming Easier to Obtain in U.S.
The National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 report shows that illegal drugs are becoming more readily available in the United States, mainly due to the expanding of Mexican drug cartels, and that prescription drug abuse is worsening.
Michael T. Walther, director of the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center, which produced the report, said that the economic cost of drug abuse and trafficking is estimated at nearly $215 billion per year.
Mexican drug cartels have operations in every region of the United States, and are expanding into more rural and suburban areas. They’ve also increased activity with street and prison gangs for drug distribution. The report found far greater amounts of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine coming across the border than ever before.
The report suggests that the increased traffic is partly to blame for an increase in overdoses and overdose deaths, as well as a rise in the purity of heroin and a decrease in its price. It is estimated that heroin production soared from 17 metric tons in 2007 to 38 metric tons the following year.
MDMA, or Ecstasy, is also being smuggled into the US through Asian and Mexican criminal organizations. The report said the drugs are mostly being distributed to African-American and Hispanic communities.
On the other hand, cocaine distribution has fallen in the U.S., most likely because of decreased cocaine production in Colombia and a high worldwide demand, especially in European countries.
The report also focused on the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse. There was a 98 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2002 and 2006, mostly because of increased abuse of morphine, codeine, and methadone.
Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, noted that the 2010 assessment underscores the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse, and that the Obama administration has developed a plan to help curb the problem. Steps include expanding drug monitoring programs and training healthcare providers to screen for prescription drug abuse.
Source: CNN, Carol Cratty, Mexico Drug Cartels Extend Reach in U.S., March 28, 2010.