Special Agent in Charge
Atlanta Field Division
Drug Enforcement Administration
Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee
September 18, 2000
Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.
Chairman Mica, distinguished members of the Committee: I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the emerging drug threats facing the youth of America today. I would first like to thank you personally and the Committee for it's continued support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and overall support of drug law enforcement.
As you are well aware, the alarming spread of illegal drug abuse by our youth is having a profound effect in communities throughout the United States. It is fair to say that the increasing use of synthetic or club drugs such as 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, aka Ecstasy), GHB, Ketamine, LSD, and methamphetamine by young adults is quickly becoming one of the most significant law enforcement and social issues facing our nation today. DEA reporting indicates widespread abuse within virtually every major city throughout the United States with indications of trafficking and abuse expanding to smaller cities across the nation. Perhaps most frightening is the decreased perception of risk that young teens have regarding the use of these drugs. Many mistakenly believe they are not as harmful or addictive as mainstream drugs.
One concern is the recent explosion of Ecstasy seizures and nationwide hospital emergency room mentions related to Ecstasy. Although available since the 1980s, its use has escalated in the 1990s among college students and young adults, particularly those who participate in all-night dance parties called "raves." Recent statistics indicate that between 1998 and 1999, past year use of ecstasy rose by a third among 10th graders, and by 56 percent among 12th graders. The greatest number of MDMA users fell into the 18-25 year old category with slightly greater than 1.4 million people reporting its use.
Secondly, while methamphetamine is not an entirely new problem in the United States, about six years ago an upsurge in methamphetamine trafficking and abuse began taking hold in many regions of the nation, starting on the West Coast, and rapidly expanding into the Midwest and Southwestern United States. DEA statistics indicate that in 1993, DEA seized a total of 218 methamphetamine labs nationwide. Current DEA statistics indicate that in 1999, DEA alone seized 2,021 clandestine laboratories and that the total number of laboratories seized by Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers nationwide was 7,060 (note: 97% of all reported lab seizures were either methamphetamine or amphetamine labs.
As such, due to the potential health and safety threat each pose to the general public, and in particular, America's youth population, I will focus my testimony today on methamphetamine and MDMA trafficking.
Traditionally considered the "poor-man's" cocaine, methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. Police reporting clearly indicates that methamphetamine addiction and trafficking has resulted in increased violence and severely impacted the quality of life in many American communities. Increasing methamphetamine production and abuse poses a unique challenge for drug enforcement in the United States. Law enforcement agencies must now face the burdens of additional specialized training for officers, hazardous waste disposal, environmental contamination, and additional public safety issues of fires, explosions, and poison gas, in addition to the crime, violence, and abuse problems typically associated with controlled substances.
There are at least three distinct components to combating the overall methamphetamine problem: comprehensive domestic and international precursor chemical control and enforcement, fighting organized, high volume drug traffickers and the identification and clean up of the growing number of smaller producing, "mom and pop" laboratories. Over the past several years, established Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico and Southern and Central California have seized control of the illicit methamphetamine trade. Mexican drug trafficking organizations have the ability to exploit an existing, well-established transportation and distribution network, on both sides of the border, and to illegally secure large amounts of precursor chemicals. Mexico based, poly-drug trafficking organizations have revolutionized the production of methamphetamine by operating large-scale laboratories in Mexico and California that are capable of producing unprecedented quantities of methamphetamine.
Almost all of the "super labs" operating in the United States are located in California. Although Mexican organizations operate only a small percentage of the total methamphetamine laboratories seized nationally, these "super labs" produce an estimated 85% of the methamphetamine distributed in the United States. These criminal organizations have saturated the western United States market with methamphetamine, established their distribution cells in other regions of the United States, and are increasingly moving their methamphetamine to markets in the Midwestern and Eastern United States.
Another reason for the methamphetamine lab epidemic is the evolution of technology and the increased use of the Internet. With modern computer technology, and chemists willing to share their recipes, production information is now available to anyone with computer access. Aside from marijuana, methamphetamine is the only illegal drug abused by a noteworthy percentage of the population that an addict could produce himself or herself. A cocaine or heroin addict cannot make his own cocaine or heroin, but a methamphetamine addict only has to turn on their computer to find a recipe that details the chemicals and process needed. Many addicts have elected to produce the stimulant themselves.
The growing popularity of methamphetamine has led to an alarmingly high number of clandestine laboratory seizures across the country. The number of clandestine labs (all types of illegal drugs) seized nationwide by DEA has increased from 306 lab seizures in Calendar Year 1994 to 2,021 in 1999, a 569% increase. The statistics for 1999 also indicate that 97% of the clandestine laboratory seizures reported to the El Paso Intelligence Center in 1999 were methamphetamine and/or amphetamine labs. These labs are usually far smaller than the larger laboratories operated by the major methamphetamine trafficking organizations, but are equally as dangerous to law enforcement officers who encounter them.
In 1997, DEA reported 31 fires and 11 explosions associated with the 1,451 clandestine drug lab seizures in which DEA participated. In 1999, the National Clandestine Laboratory Database indicated that the number of reported incidents of fires increased to 64, explosions 101, and labs which had explosives and/or booby traps, 80. The National Database also revealed 877 incidents in which children were present during the seizure of a lab in 1999. The Drug Enforcement Administration and state and local police organizations also must deal with the dangerous and expensive hazardous waste cleanup problems created by clandestine labs.
During the last two years, the national methamphetamine situation has changed significantly. Until 1999, the methamphetamine problem was increasing at a dramatic rate. The national purity level for methamphetamine, as well as amphetamine, has gone down dramatically in 1999-2000. As previously stated, precursor chemical controls, the international "letter of non-objection" program, and chemical interdiction, combined with aggressive national and local law enforcement efforts, have produced positive results. The average purity of methamphetamine exhibits seized by DEA dropped from 71.9 percent in 1994 to 31.1 percent in 1999. The average purity of amphetamine exhibits seized by DEA dropped from 40.5 percent in 1994 to only 20.8 percent in 1999. Decreasing purity levels for methamphetamine and amphetamine should have some effect on the number of emergency room admissions and overdose deaths related to methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine prices vary considerably by region. Nationwide, prices range from $3,500 to $30,000 per pound at the distribution level. Retail prices range from $500 to $2,500 per ounce and $25 to $150 per gram. Arrests in DEA methamphetamine investigations increased in Fiscal Year (FY) 1999, to 8,680, a 10% percent increase from the 7,888 arrests in FY 1998, but a 41% increase over the 6,145 arrests in FY 1997, and a significant 113% increase over the 4,069 arrests in FY 1996.
The Methamphetamine Situation in Georgia:
The majority of methamphetamine available for consumption in the Southeast area, and specifically in Georgia, originates in Mexico, California, and Texas and is transported via couriers, (usually Mexican Nationals), by vehicles, commercial tractor-trailers, and commercial postal services. In the last few years, the number of methamphetamine investigations initiated by the DEA Atlanta Field Division increased from 78 in FY 96 to 185 in FY 2000. Increasingly, more violators have also been arrested. The number of methamphetamine offenders arrested increased from 307 in 1997 to 521 in FY 2000. In 1996, the DEA Atlanta Field Division seized a total of 54 pounds of methamphetamine. For the last three fiscal years, methamphetamine seizures have continued an upward trend. For fiscal year 1999, DEA Atlanta seized 469 pounds of methamphetamine. Seizures for FY 2000 are not final but show a slight decrease.
Methamphetamine clandestine laboratory seizures within the DEA's Atlanta Field Division have also increased significantly. Five years ago, DEA seized less than five methamphetamine laboratories in the Northern District of Georgia. In FY 99, a total of 24 laboratories were seized. To date, in the Northern District of Georgia a total of 44 laboratories have been seized in FY2000.
Congressional Action (Methamphetamine):
In the last several years, Congress enacted important legislation to help prevent chemical methamphetamine manufacture, to deter trafficking in methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals, and to encourage effective prevention, education, and treatment of methamphetamine abuse. The regulatory and enforcement framework for precursor control was established with the "Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988" (Pub. Law100-690). Twelve more chemicals were added to the regulatory scheme by amendments in the "Crime Control Act of 1990" (Pub. Law 101-647). The first bill specifically targeting the illicit production of methamphetamine (and the related drug methcathinone, which has virtually disappeared as a clandestine product) was the "Domestic Chemical Diversion Control Act of 1993" (Pub. Law 103-200). The 1993 amendment began to close the "legal drug exemption" that had allowed traffickers to avoid regulatory requirements by buying their chemicals through thousands of "legal" FDA-approved tablets. The bill brought over-the-counter, single-entity ephedrine products under DEA regulatory control, and permitted DEA to add other products by regulation. It also required registration of handlers of "list I" (formerly precursor) chemicals similar to those for controlled substances. In 1996, Congress enacted a major piece of methamphetamine-related legislation, the "Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996" (Pub. Law 104-237), most of which became effective on October 3, 1996. The most recent enactment, the "Methamphetamine Penalty Enhancement Act of 1998" (Pub Law 105-277, div.), lowered certain quantity thresholds for mandatory minimum trafficking penalties.
The Congress has developed landmark methamphetamine legislation, The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 [H.R. 2987 and S.486]. This legislation substantially contributes to national methamphetamine enforcement efforts by directing the Sentencing Commission to increase base level penalties for amphetamine so they are commensurate with those for methamphetamine, and setting higher sentencing thresholds for the manufacture of methamphetamine or amphetamine if it is determined that the criminal offense creates a substantial risk to human life or the environment, or if this risk is to a minor.
Primarily illicitly manufactured in and trafficked from Europe, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) is the most popular of the club drugs. Its origins can be traced to Germany in 1912 where it was patented but never studied or marketed for human consumption. In the 1970's and early 1980's some health care professionals experimented with the drug in "introspective therapy" sessions, outside of FDA-approved research. DEA reporting indicates widespread abuse of this drug within virtually every city in the United States. Although it is primarily abused in urban settings, abuse of this substance also has been reported in rural communities. Although prices in the United States generally range from $25 to $40 per dosage unit, prices as high as $50 per dosage unit have been reported in Miami.
The drug is a synthetic, psychoactive substance possessing stimulant and mild hallucinogenic properties. Known as the "hug drug" or "feel good" drug, it reduces inhibitions and produces feelings of empathy for others, the elimination of anxiety, and extreme relaxation. In addition to chemical stimulation, the drug reportedly suppresses the need to eat, drink, or sleep. This enables club scene users to endure all-night and sometimes 2-3 day parties. MDMA is taken orally, usually in tablet form, and its effects last approximately 4-6 hours. Taken at raves, the drug may lead to severe dehydration and heat stroke, since it has the effect of "short-circuiting" the body's temperature signals to the brain. An MDMA overdose is characterized by rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, faintness, muscle cramping, panic attacks, and in more severe cases, loss of consciousness or seizures. One of the side effects of the drug is jaw muscle tension and teeth grinding. As a consequence, MDMA users will often use pacifiers to help relieve the tension. The most critical, life-threatening response to MDMA is hyperthermia or excessive body heat. Recent reports of MDMA-related deaths were associated with core body temperatures ranging from 107 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Many rave clubs now have cooling centers or cold showers designed to allow participants to lower their body temperatures.
The long-term effects of MDMA are still under evaluation; however, research by the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1998 directly measured the effects of the drug on the human brain. The study revealed that the drug causes damage to the neurons (nerve cells) that utilize serotonin to communicate with other neurons in the brain, and that recreational MDMA users risk permanent brain damage that may manifest itself in depression, anxiety, memory loss, learning difficulties, and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
MDMA can produce stimulant effects such as an enhanced sense of pleasure, self-confidence and increased energy. Its hallucinogenic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy. Users claim they experience feelings of closeness with others and a desire to touch them. As such, because of the feelings attained by the MDMA user, there exists a misconception that these drugs are relatively safe. However, various researchers have shown that use of club drugs can cause serious health problems and, in some cases, death. Used in combination with alcohol, some of these club drugs can be even more dangerous. Furthermore, MDMA's long-term psychological effects can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, and paranoia.
The ecstasy drug market in the United States is supplied and controlled by Western European-based drug traffickers. In recent years, Israeli Organized Crime syndicates; some composed of Russian émigrés associated with Russian Organized Crime syndicates, have forged relationships with the Western European traffickers and gained control over a significant share of the European market. Moreover, the Israeli syndicates remain the primary source to the U.S. distribution groups. The increasing involvement of organized crime syndicates signifies the "professionalization" of the MDMA market. These organizations have proven to be capable of producing and smuggling significant quantities of MDMA from source countries in Europe to the United States. DEA reporting indicates their distribution networks are expanding from coast to coast, enabling a relatively few organizations to dominate MDMA markets nationwide.
MDMA is clandestinely manufactured in Western Europe, primarily in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is estimated that 90% of MDMA distributed worldwide is produced in these countries. MDMA production is a relatively sophisticated chemical process making it difficult for inexperienced individuals to produce MDMA successfully. However, there are several manufacturing processes for MDMA and a multitude of "recipes" that are posted on the Internet. Most of the MDMA laboratories are capable of producing 20-30 kilograms on a daily basis, although law enforcement authorities have seized some labs with the capability of producing 100 kilograms per day.
Most often, the MDMA is manufactured by Dutch chemists and transported and distributed by various factions of Israeli Organized Crime groups. These groups recruit and utilize Americans, Israeli and western European nationals as couriers. These couriers can smuggle anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 tablets (2.5-5 kilograms) on their person and up to 50,000 tablets (10 kilograms) in specially designed luggage. In addition to the use of couriers, these organizations use the parcel mail, DHL, UPS, and U.S. Postal Service. Due to the size of the MDMA tablet, concealment is much easier than other traditional drugs smuggled in kilogram-size packages (cocaine, heroin, and marijuana).
What brings these Drug Trafficking Organizations together is the enormous profit realized in these ventures along with the fact that MDMA is not produced in the United States. Although estimates vary, the cost of producing an MDMA tablet can run between $.50 - $1.00. The wholesale, or first level price for MDMA tablets have ranged from $1.00-$2.00 per tablet, contingent on the volume purchased. This potential four-fold profit provides huge incentives for the laboratory owner or chemist. Furthermore, manufacturing laboratories can realize these profits without coming into contact with anyone except the first level transportation or distribution representatives. Once the MDMA reaches the United States, a domestic cell distributor will charge $6-$8 per tablet. The retailer then turns around and distributes it for $25-$40 per pill. Clearly, there is a tremendous profit realized in each function in MDMA trafficking from the producer or clandestine laboratory operator, to the transporter, to the wholesaler, to the retailer, then on to the consumer.
MDMA situation in Georgia:
The MDMA situation in Georgia mirrors National trends. MDMA is very popular among middle-class college age students who mistakenly perceive this "Designer Drug" to be harmless. In the Atlanta Metropolitan area, like in many other metropolitan cities throughout the U.S., MDMA is widely available in the "Nightclub" scene, (Dance Nightclubs, Adult Entertainment Clubs, Gay Clubs, etc), " Rave Parties", college campuses and Health Fitness Clubs.
Even though a few MDMA laboratories have been seized in the Atlanta Field Division, the bulk of MDMA pills available in the Atlanta Metropolitan area are manufactured in the Netherlands transported overland to other European cities and transshipped into this area via Canada and Mexico. The trafficking of MDMA in the Atlanta area appears to be controlled by local drug traffickers with connections to Russian/Israeli organized crime members.
Within the last few months, two major seizures of MDMA have been made in the Atlanta metropolitan area. One totaled 70,000 pills and the other 30,000 pills. In addition, approximately 27 kilograms of MDMA destined for distribution in Atlanta was also seized by DEA.
Overview of Other "Club" Drugs: An Emerging Epidemic:
The use of synthetic drugs has become a popular method of enhancing the club and rave experience. These rave functions, which are parties known for loud techno-music and dancing at underground locations, regularly host several thousand teenagers and young adults who use MDMA, LSD, GHB, alone or in various combinations. Users of drugs such as MDMA report that the effects of the drug heighten the user's perceptions, especially the visual stimulation. Quite often, users of MDMA at clubs will dance with light sticks to increase their visual stimulation. Legal substances such as Vicks VapoRub are often used to enhance the effects of the drug.
"Club" drugs have become such an integral part of the rave circuit that there no longer appears to be an attempt to conceal their use. Rather, drugs are sold and used openly at these parties. Traditional and non-traditional sources continue to report the flagrant and open drug use at "raves." Intelligence indicates that it has also become commonplace for security at these parties to ignore drug use and sales on the premises. Tragically, many teens do not perceive these drugs as harmful or dangerous. These drugs are marketed to teens as "feel good" drugs. The following is a brief summary of other selected club drugs.
Gamma HydroxyButyrate (GHB) is easily accessible at rave parties and is currently popular among teenagers and young adults alike. Commonly referred to as a date rape-drug, GHB was originally used as a substitute anabolic steroid for strength training. GHB has been used in the commission of sexual assaults because it renders the victim incapable of resisting, and may cause memory problems. GHB costs approximately $10-$20 per dose and is frequently mixed with alcohol. As of January 2000, DEA documented 60 GHB-related deaths nationwide. The drug is used predominantly by adolescents and young adults, often when they attend nightclubs and raves. GHB is often manufactured in homes with recipes and ingredients found and purchased on the Internet. As a result of the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prohibition Act of 2000, GHB was designated a Schedule I drug under the CSA.
Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL), a List I chemical, is a precursor chemical for the manufacture of GHB. Several Internet sites offer kits that contain GBL, sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide and directions for the manufacture of GHB. This process is relatively simple and does not require complex laboratory equipment. Upon ingestion, GBL is synthesized by the body to produce GHB. As a consequence, some partygoers drink small quantities of GBL straight. GBL increases the effects of alcohol, and can cause respiratory distress, seizures, coma and death.
d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), listed as a Schedule I drug under the CSA, first emerged as a popular drug of the psychedelic generation in the 1960s. Its popularity appeared to decline in the late 1970s; an effect attributed to a broader awareness of its hazardous effects. Over the past decade, there has been a resurgence of LSD abuse, especially among young adults. Adverse effects of LSD include panic, confusion, suspicion, and anxiety. Liquid LSD has been seized in Visine bottles at rave functions. LSD is also sold at raves on very small perforated paper squares that are either blank or have a cartoon-figure design. Most users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop using it over time, since it does not produce the same compulsive, drug-induced behavior of cocaine and heroin.
As of August 1999, Ketamine, also known as "Special K," was placed in Schedule III of the Controlled Substance Act. Used primarily by veterinarians as an anesthetic, Ketamine produces hallucinogenic effects similar to PCP with the visual effects of LSD. Ketamine is diverted in liquid form, dried and distributed as a powder. Prices average $20 per dosage unit. Ketamine is snorted in the same manner as cocaine at 5-10 minute intervals until the desired effect is obtained.
Ecstasy, as well as all other club drugs, have been scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Due to the exponential growth and abuse of Ecstasy over the past year and its devastating and potentially lethal effects, Congressman Christopher Cannon's methamphetamine bill, H.R. 2987 - The Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act of 1999, incorporates the major provisions of H.R. 4553, The Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Judy Biggert. H.R. 2987 calls for the United States Sentencing Commission to amend the federal sentencing guidelines to provide for increased penalties associated with the manufacture, distribution and use of Ecstasy. Those penalties would be comparable to the base offense levels for offenses involving any methamphetamine mixture. The bill would also direct that the guidelines provide that offenses involving GHB or GBL and those involving a significant quantity of Schedule I and II depressants, including GHB and its analogues, are subject to greater terms of imprisonment than currently in place. Further, the bill calls for $5.0 million in funding to the public health service for school and community-based abuse and addiction prevention programs aimed at Ecstasy, PMA and related club drugs.
Another bill relating to club drug abuse, the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Drug Act of l999, (Public Law l06-172), was signed by the President on February 18, 2000. This legislation directed DEA to place GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) in Schedule I (the DEA has since done so) and placed the precursor chemical GBL on chemical List I.
Furthermore, Public Law l06-172 contains a statutory obligation that requires DEA to establish a special unit to assess the abuse of and trafficking in GHB, flunitrazepem, ketamine, and other controlled substances (club or designer drugs) whose use has been associated with sexual assaults. In addition, the Attorney General was directed to develop a protocol for the collection of evidence and the taking of victim statements in connection with violations of the CSA - which results in or contributes to sexual assault, crimes of violence, or other crimes involving the abuse of GHB and the other designer drugs. DEA and the FBI are also obligated to develop model training materials for law enforcement personnel involved in such investigations, and make such protocols and training materials available to Federal, state, and local personnel responsible for such investigations.
In an effort to target organizations and individuals that distribute and manufacture "club drugs," DEA established Operation "Flashback" in July 1997. On July 2, 1998, MDMA was approved for inclusion under this Special Enforcement Program. Since February 1998, active investigations have increased from 6 to 140, indicative of the increased availability, and demand for, and law enforcement emphasis on, club drugs. Operation "Flashback" seeks to achieve the following five primary objectives:
- Develop prosecutable cases against individuals and organizations that manufacture and distribute so-called club drugs.
- Develop intelligence links between domestic wholesale distributors and the foreign source of supply.
- Identify, arrest, and prosecute violators at a high level of distribution, including the clandestine lab operators.
- Establish and coordinate an overall strategy for all domestic and foreign investigative efforts.
- Identify the command and control infrastructures of organizations that are distributing so-called club drugs.
Furthermore, this Special Enforcement Program provides a mechanism to enforcement components in the field to fund undercover buys, confidential source payments, installation of pen registers, and activation of Title III wiretaps. In addition, it acts as a central depository for any and all information related to club drugs. This database contains information on targets, organizations, arrests, seizures, modes of smuggling, types of drugs, and the logos/brand names they bear.
Presently, DEA has several ongoing investigations into these trafficking organizations. DEA's Special Operations Division conducted one particular investigation of note. The Special Operations Division is a joint national coordinating and support entity comprised of agents, analysts, and prosecutors from DOJ, the USCS, the FBI, and DEA. This investigation, entitled Operation Rave, focused on an MDMA distribution cell that operated throughout the northeast and Florida. The leader of this organization, an Israeli national, was responsible for the distribution of approximately 150,000 tablets of MDMA per week. This and related spin-off investigations resulted in the arrest of 105 defendants, the seizure of 620,000 tablets of MDMA and approximately $935,000 in U.S. currency. The significance of this investigation was the fact that it identified, for the first time, the involvement of Israeli and Russian crime groups in MDMA trafficking.
Drug trafficking organizations control their operations through sophisticated networks of production, distribution, money laundering, and security cells. Prosecuting the drug kingpins who command and control these organizations requires law enforcement to find some way to get inside their sophisticated structures to obtain evidence of their crimes. Often the only feasible means of infiltrating these structures is through the use of electronic surveillance; primarily court approved pen registers and trap, trace devices, and wiretaps. To effectively deploy these methods of court approved surveillance, and to stay one step ahead of the traffickers, law enforcement must be able to move on the basis of available information as expeditiously as possible.
Pen registers and trap and trace devices are used in the early stages of investigations to develop enough information to obtain a warrant for a wiretap. Trained investigators can use pen registers to establish a calling pattern, including information that the suspect telephone has been used in calls with telephones of other known traffickers. Without such tools, law enforcement will be unable to penetrate the drug trafficking organizations and will be unable to obtain the evidence needed to apprehend and prosecute these kingpins for their crimes.
Demand Reduction Initiatives:
The increasing power and diversity of drug trafficking organizations operating throughout the United States and abroad demands an equally authoritative and creative response. These drug trafficking organizations seek to entrench criminal enterprise in modern society; they attempt to lure the youth of this country into the dark world of drug abuse and crime on a daily basis. As such, DEA is committed to developing and employing multi-faceted strategies to combat both drug trafficking and drug abuse. With this in mind, DEA's Demand Reduction program was created in 1986 in response to the widespread belief that both law enforcement and drug prevention were necessary components of a comprehensive attack against the drug problem in the United States. Given the age of the targeted user population of MDMA, DEA has created a very aggressive and comprehensive plan to bring this issue to the attention of the American public. It should be noted that DEA's Operations Division organized a club drug conference in July 2000 in the Washington, D.C., area. Participants included law enforcement personnel from around the world, leading researchers, clinicians, prevention specialists, educators, and medical professionals who discussed the alarming resurgence in the use of MDMA and other club drugs. This conference created a heightened awareness of these professionals and stimulated much needed communication between law enforcement, education, and prevention concerning this subject.
Increasing methamphetamine production and abuse poses a unique challenge for drug enforcement, both in Georgia and throughout the nation. Clandestine laboratories represent a substantial health and safety threat to communities. The flammable, explosive, toxic, and carcinogenic chemicals used in the manufacturing process pose an immediate and long-term threat to law enforcement, fire department, and emergency services personnel, as well as the general public. Fires and explosions are a constant threat in this type of environment. Moreover, the threat to the environment is substantial, due to the illegal and unsafe disposal methods of clandestine methamphetamine operators.
MDMA abuse, although a relatively new phenomenon has certainly taken parts of this country by storm. The magnitude of the current MDMA problem cannot be understated. The media coverage alone is indicative of the impact this drug has had on the United States. One only has to review the dramatic increase in seizures over the past twenty-four months to recognize the insidious upsurge of this drug.
In conclusion, DEA will continue to utilize a multi-faceted approach employing both prevention and enforcement strategies in targeting MDMA and methamphetamine trafficking and abuse. In this regard, DEA is working in conjunction with law enforcement officials throughout Europe and Israel in an effort to identify, target, dismantle, and prosecute those organizations responsible for the proliferation of MDMA throughout the U.S. and Europe. Furthermore, DEA endorsed and implemented elements of the National Methamphetamine Strategy that focus on international drug trafficking groups, independent domestic methamphetamine operations, and rogue chemical companies that are responsible for the smuggling, production, and distribution of methamphetamine in the United States. Providing assistance and training to state and local law enforcement efforts, such as those in Georgia, is vital to DEA's methamphetamine strategy.
I thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the Committee and I look forward to taking any questions you may have on this important issue.