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Heroin, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana are the most commonly abused and “in demand” illegal drugs in Pennsylvania. The state, with a population of more than 12 million, currently ranks 23rd when it comes to violent crime in the United States with more than 120,000 individuals on probation and a state prison population of 71,000. They need a good Pennsylvania drug rehab to combat these issues. Some of these violent crimes are related to the attempt to obtain illegal or prescription drugs with the intent to use or sell. Drug-related crimes in Pennsylvania include home invasions and theft with the intent to obtain funds to buy or sell drugs in and out of the state. While not at epidemic proportions, certain manufactured drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, among the most common of the so-called “club drugs,” are available throughout the states among various age groups regardless of socioeconomic background.
Commonly Abused Drugs By Region
While heroin and cocaine in various forms are commonly abused statewide, some drugs are specific to certain regions in Pennsylvania. In the eastern part of the state, PCP (Phencyclidine) and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) are more prevalent in the communities in and around Philadelphia. PCP and LSD can also be found in major cities within the state such as Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Oxycontin abuse appears to be decreasing in the state. However, similar diverted drugs with other legitimate intended purposes are available throughout the state to users seeking such drugs for illicit purposes. In 2004, state police discovered 63 methamphetamine laboratories in the state. Based on drug arrests, the most commonly abused drugs in Pennsylvania include:
- Marijuana (not legal for medicinal purposes in PA)
- Illegally used/obtained prescription drugs
Major Transportation Hub
Since Philadelphia is part of the extensively traveled I-95 corridor bringing in traffic from major metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York, and Miami, the region is a source for both consumption and distribution of illegal drugs. Many of the drugs trafficked in this area are then distributed throughout the state mostly by African American and Hispanic groups, according to various studies on the demographics associated with this type of activity in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
Shipment points are typically established to either sell the drugs within a specific area or send shipments on to New York City and other busy markets. Based on records of drug arrests and reports of illegal drug activity, rural northwestern Pennsylvania is sometimes referred to as “the meth capital” of Pennsylvania. Illicit drugs are typically delivered in the state by direct street commerce, local distribution networks, or parcel services.
Heroin Distribution and Use in Pennsylvania
Illegal distribution of heroin is currently ranked as the top priority for law enforcement officials in the state, especially in the Philadelphia area. Reports suggest some dealers are moving into smaller cities and towns in rural parts of the state away from inner city neighborhoods in an effort to find a new customer base. This trend appears to be confirmed with an increase in overdoses and violent crime related to drug activity in smaller communities in Pennsylvania.
Heroin is especially popular among teens and young adults in Pennsylvania. Teens often consume heroin in combination with alcohol, cocaine, or other drugs. Many of these combinations result in either hospitalizations or deaths due to an overdose. Reports of heroin-related deaths in the state are no longer limited to inner city areas with reports of fatalities in rural communities on the rise. Illegal drug distribution points identified in Pennsylvania include:
Cocaine Distribution and Use in Pennsylvania
Methamphetamine Distribution and Use in Pennsylvania
According to the Philadelphia Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, methamphetamine lab seizures have jumped from just 8 in 2000 to more than 60 in 2004, the most recent year available with public figures. Methamphetamine consumption is primarily concentrated in the Philadelphia area with varying quantities available statewide. Since meth is typically manufactured in labs of varying quantities, addicts may receive doses stronger than what they intended to consume. Local traffickers either obtain the meth distributed in Pennsylvania from organizations in California and parts of Mexico or from labs operating within the state. State intelligence sources believe that methamphetamine is commonly transported into the state through private vehicles, parcel services, and commercial bus luggage.
Clandestine laboratories, even those of a larger magnitude, account for a small percentage of methamphetamine distributed in the state since meth brought in from other sources is available in much larger quantities. When compared to nationwide stats, the availability of methamphetamine in the state remains relatively low. While not on a level with heroin and cocaine in Pennsylvania, methamphetamine is attractive to addicts since it typically produces a longer-lasting high and because some users manufacturer their own for either personal use or distribution to obtain funds for supplies and other drugs.
Club Drug Distribution and Use in Pennsylvania
The most common so-called “club drug” in Pennsylvania is MDMA, commonly referred to as ecstasy. It is often introduced in group settings such as nightclubs and private parties in major metropolitan areas of Pennsylvania, especially Erie, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. Ecstasy is especially popular among teens and young adults. It is also considered a major problem on college campuses across Pennsylvania since distributors tend to target this demographic. According to federal DEA figures, the use of club drugs across the state is about on par with usage in similarly sized states. New York City is considered the main source of club drugs in Pennsylvania, especially in the Philadelphia area due to an easily accessible transportation route.
According to state and local police reports on drug activity in the state, ecstasy is primarily smuggled into Pennsylvania by Israeli and Dutch nationals and organized crime groups from parts of Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean. Areas near major airports such as Philadelphia International Airport are also distribution sources for club drugs, especially when supplies come from other countries. Some individuals attempt to smuggle club drugs in through clothing and luggage. The danger with club drugs is that such drugs are often highly addictive since many of the sellers attempt to hook new users and push them towards more substantial drugs. Other than MDMA, some of the most popular club drugs in Pennsylvania include:
- Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)
- Gamma butyrolactone (GBL)
Marijuana Distribution and Use in Pennsylvania
Marijuana is available throughout Pennsylvania spanning nearly all ethnic and socioeconomic demographics. As is the case nationwide, recreational use of marijuana in Pennsylvania is popular among high school and college students in the state. However, adults in Pennsylvania are the primary users of marijuana, especially in social settings. Like heroin and cocaine, marijuana is usually smoked. Marijuana in Pennsylvania typically comes from the southwestern part of the United States, California, Texas, and parts of Mexico.
Smaller amounts of the drug are grown directly in the state. However, Pennsylvania doesn’t have the right climate for extended growth, which is why the main sources are from regions with longer growing seasons. Tractor-trailers, trucks, private vehicles, and airport or bus luggage is often used to transport larger amounts of marijuana into the state. Some parcel companies such as Federal Express or UPS are also unknowingly used to transport marijuana into the state.
State police report smaller seizures of homegrown plants for distribution either within the state or to nearby states. Harrisburg is considered a major hub for large-scale deliveries and shipments. The concern with marijuana for Pennsylvania law enforcement officials is the decreased level of awareness experienced by many users, especially with individuals who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana.
Distribution and Use of Hallucinogenics in Pennsylvania
In the Philadelphia area, hallucinogenics such as phencyclidine (PCP) are often used with marijuana, which can further prevent an individual under the influence from making safe decisions, especially while driving or even while walking. Reports suggest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is more prevalent in the western part of Pennsylvania. This hallucinogenic has also been found in urban areas in northern Pennsylvania and west of Philadelphia.
The majority of users of hallucinogenic drugs in Pennsylvania are young adults, especially white males. Hallucinogenic drugs are also distributed and used near some college campuses in the state. The most common source of hallucinogenic drugs in Pennsylvania is California, especially for large volumes of LSD. PCP in Pennsylvania primarily comes from California and New York, especially for distribution in the Philadelphia area.
Distribution and Use of Pharmaceutical Drugs in Pennsylvania
Diverted pharmaceutical drugs are available to users throughout Pennsylvania. Oxycodone products are considered the most abused of the pharmaceutical drugs classified in this category in the state. Due to awareness of the problem by law enforcement officials, oxycodone has become more difficult to obtain. Consequently, users have switched to either heroin or other oxycodone products such as Tylox and Percodan.
While concentrated around some major cities, the problem appears to be statewide. Fentanyl patches are sometimes worn by users. The most recent pharmaceutical drug being used by some addicts in Pennsylvania is Actiq. Containing fentanyl, the drug is intended for use by cancer patients with severe pain. Referred to on the street as “percopop,” the drug is a raspberry-flavored lozenge resembling a lollipop since it’s on a handle. Many users obtain pharmaceutical drugs by either going from doctor to doctor to obtain prescriptions for non-existent symptoms or through forgery of doctor’s prescriptions.
Some addicts resort to theft or armed robbery to obtain the drugs from larger and smaller retail pharmacies throughout the state. Law enforcement officials also report the growth of Internet scams where users attempt to obtain pharmaceutical drugs through online pharmacies. The concern with pharmaceutical drugs is that many addicts consume more than the recommended dosage in order to achieve a high and may suffer unintended side effects and possibly death. The most commonly abused diverted pharmaceutical drugs in Pennsylvania include:
• Cough Syrups (esp. Tussionex and Hycodan)
Combating Illegal Drugs in Pennsylvania
Drug arrests in Pennsylvania reached a high of 1004 in 2000. The most recent figures show drug arrests at nearly 800. Pennsylvania drug agents employ several different tactics to counter illegal drug activity in the state. One such method is the formation of DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams. This is a cooperative program between state agencies and local law enforcement officials that has been in place in the state since the mid-1990s in order to combat drug-related violent crime, especially in smaller towns and cities throughout the state.
Nationwide, the program has resulted in nearly 20,000 drug-related arrests.
Mobile enforcement teams are currently in place in 16 locations throughout the state, including Allentown, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. DEA Regional Enforcement Teams were created in 1999 to combat drug trafficking problems in the state. The purpose of this group is to target organizations distributing illegal drugs throughout the United States. The team specifically concentrates on areas lacking sufficient law enforcement capabilities to target drug traffickers. The program has resulted in nearly 700 drug-related arrests since its inception. In Pennsylvania, the RET program was initiated in Pittsburgh and has since spread to communities throughout the state in need of assistance to deal with illegal drug activity, primarily focusing on distribution routes.
Money laundering is a typical crime associated with drug trafficking in Pennsylvania. The funds raised from drug sales is typically transported to various sources throughout the state by either physical transportation or via electronic transfer. Some drug dealers send money directly through the mail or via delivery services such as UPS. Some drug traffickers make attempts to conceal funds as part of the regular transport of goods. Due to advances in technology, the preferred method today is through electronic transfers of cash. Drug-related earnings can be easily sent anywhere in the world through electronic methods.
Another method of transfer increasing in popularity is the use of Internet banks to transfer funds to national and international bank accounts. Additional money laundering methods include the transfer of funds through the purchase of major assets including vehicles and property with drug proceeds as a method of concealing the original source of the funds. Some drug-related funds are transferred through the use of so-called “front companies,” or fictitious companies created with the purpose of hiding assets.
Another method is to send smaller electronic funds over a small span of time to avoid attracting the attention of drug agents looking for suspicious activity such as the transfer of large sums of money. This method is also used to prevent financial institutions from alerting authorities when suspicious funds transfers are observed. It’s not unusual for drug traffickers to use multiple bank accounts to achieve this goal.
Concern Over ‘Homemade’ Drugs in Pennsylvania
Regardless of what the drug is, law enforcement officials in the state have expressed concern over so-called “homemade” batches of drugs being distributed statewide. The primary concern is the use of some materials that may be lethal when combined with cocaine or heroin. There is often no way to clearly tell if a drug has been “cooked” or concocted from a blend of similar drugs to stretch the batch to allow for more sales.
A major concern when it comes to addictive drug use in Pennsylvania is the number of users combining illegal or prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs, both legal OTC drugs and illegally obtained drugs. This is especially dangerous when drugs that aren’t pure are mixed with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. If impure ingredients such as lye and various household products are ingested unintentionally, side effects and other adverse reactions may occur, including some fatalities.
As of 2013, Pennsylvania places 14th on a ranking of drug overdose mortality by state with about 15 people per 100,000 experiencing an overdose-related death. While illegal drug use and abuse remains an issue in the major cities in Pennsylvania, recent trends show an increase in distribution in smaller towns and cities throughout the state. While heroin and cocaine are the most abused drugs in the state, methamphetamine and hallucinogenic drugs are increasingly popular among teens and young adults prone to be attracted to such drugs.