SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC66177
THREAT POSED BY THE ILLEGAL IMPORTATION, TRAFFICKING, AND USE OF ECSTASY AND OTHER ''CLUB'' DRUGS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
JUNE 15, 2000
Serial No. 101
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR. , Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
MARY BONO, California
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDAVID VITTER, Louisiana
JOHN CONYERS, JR. , Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
THOMAS E. MOONEY, SR. , General Counsel-Chief of Staff
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Chief Counsel and Staff Director
Subcommittee on Crime
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida, Chairman
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBOB BARR, Georgia
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
GLENN R. SCHMITT, Chief Counsel
DANIEL J. BRYANT, Chief Counse
RICK FILKINS, Counsel
CARL THORSEN, Counsel
BOBBY VASSAR, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
June 15, 2000
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress From the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on Crime
Caulkins, Jonathan P., director of Rand's Pittsburgh Office, Drug Policy Research Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Craparotta, Andrea, investigator, Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, New Brunswick, NJ
DesRochers, Laurence, staff emergency physician, Community Medical Center, Toms River, NJ
Jenkins, Phillip, distinguished professor of history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
McDowell, David, assistant professor of psychiatry, Columbia University and director, Columbia University Substance Treatment Research Service, New York, NY
Paez, Eladio, detective, Miami Police Department, Miami, FL
Rice, Jr., Lewis, Special Agent in Charge, New York division, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Varrone, John, Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Investigations, U.S. Customs Service
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC. , SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Craparotta, Andrea, investigator, Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, New Brunswick, NJ: Prepared statement
Caulkins, Jonathan P., director of Rand's Pittsburgh office, Drug Policy Research Center, Pittsburgh, PA: Prepared statement
DesRochers, Laurence, staff emergency physician, Community Medical Center, Toms River, NJ: Prepared statement
Jackson Lee, Hon. Sheila, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas: Prepared statement
Jenkins, Phillip, distinguished professor of history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA: Prepared statement
McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress From the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on Crime: Prepared statement
McDowell, David, assistant professor of psychiatry, Columbia University and director, Columbia University Substance Treatment Research Service, New York, NY: Prepared statement
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Rice, Jr., Lewis, Special Agent in Charge, New York division, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice: Prepared statement
Scott, Hon. Robert C., a Representative in Congress From the State of Virginia: Prepared statement
Paez, Eladio, detective, Miami Police Department, Miami, FL: Prepared statement
Varrone, John, Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Investigations, U.S. Customs Service: Prepared statement
Material submitted for the record
THREAT POSED BY THE ILLEGAL IMPORTATION, TRAFFICKING, AND USE OF ECSTASY AND OTHER ''CLUB'' DRUGS
THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime,
Committee on the Judiciary,
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The subcommittee met, pursuant to other business, at 10:17 a.m., in Room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill McCollum [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Bill McCollum, George W. Gekas, Howard Coble, Lamar Smith, Charles Canady, Steve Chabot, Bob Barr, Asa Hutchinson, Robert C. Smith, Sheila Jackson Lee, Martin Meehan, Steven Rothman, and Anthony D. Weiner.
Staff present: Glenn R. Schmitt, chief counsel; Carl Thorsen, counsel; Bobby Vassar, minority counsel; and Veronica L. Eligan, staff assistant.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MCCOLLUM
Mr. MCCOLLUM. The subcommittee this morning is going to discuss ''Ecstasy'' and ''club'' drugs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, club drugs, including LSD, MDMA, GHB, Ketamine, and others are primarily used by teens and young adults who are frequent nightclub visitors and go to what they call bars and ''rave'' functions. Raves are generally night-long dances or parties, often held in warehouses, featuring high energy music and low lights. While many who attend raves do not use drugs, those who do may be attracted to the seemingly increasing stamina and intoxicating highs that are said to deepen the rave experience. Club drug use appears to be increasing in many cities around the country. Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Newark have reported widespread use at raves and at clubs.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, otherwise knows as MDMA, or by its street name ''Ecstasy,'' is a synthetic drug with hallucinogenic amphetamine-like properties. Many problems that Ecstasy users encounter are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines in cocaine, and recent research links it to long-term memory damage and depression as well. Many medical professionals believe that even one dose of Ecstasy may put a user at a much greater risk of depression in later years. However, there are some who claim that Ecstasy has no long-term negative effects. It is important to note that these beliefs are reminiscent of the claims about LSD in the 1950's and 1960's which were proven to be quite untrue, and tragically so for many.
The use of Ecstasy has surged dramatically in recent years and it may well be on its way to becoming an epidemic. Seizures by the United States Customs Service have risen from less than 500,000 tablets during fiscal year 1997, to 5.7 million tablets to date this fiscal year 2000. In certain regions of the country, hospital emergency rooms have seen a dramatic increase in patients suffering negative effects of use. Arrests of Ecstacy traffickers are on the rise as certain foreign organized crime groups have reportedly developed sophisticated effective distribution networks in both worldwide and within the U.S. The margin of profit is significant. For a $100,000 investment in production of 200,000 tablets $5 million may be realized.
Just yesterday, U.S. Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly announced the arrest of 25 individuals in connection with an international Ecstasy smuggling organization estimated to have imported more than 9 million tablets for distribution in the United States in operation ''Paris Express,'' which represents the largest Ecstasy trafficking syndicate dismantled to date, and which resulted in the seizure of 655,000 tables worth almost $20 million. The Customs Service did us a great service.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My own State of Florida has experienced a very serious problem with so-called ''designer'' or ''club'' drugs. As of May 15, Florida reported close to 200 deaths over the last three years of causes related to club drug use. This alarming trend shows no sign of abatement. Given the severity of this crisis, the Florida Office of Drug Control has undertaken an aggressive strategy to fight the widespread use of these drugs through legislative efforts, increased law enforcement, focus in education and outreach.
H.R. 4553, the Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, was introduced May 25, 2000, by Congresswoman Judy Biggert. This bill would increase penalties for club drug-related crimes so that they mirror the severity of the penalties associated with methamphetamine trafficking, provide Federal grants for public and non-profit organizations for education programs related to club drugs, and direct a component of the National Youth Anti-Drug media campaign to address club drugs. While this is not a hearing on Ms. Biggert's legislation, nonetheless, her bill is a good one, and one that is substantially similar to bipartisan legislation which has been introduced in the Senate. As we all know, our window of legislative opportunity is slowly closing, and I hope to bring before this subcommittee as soon as possible a bill to address this matter.
At this oversight hearing, the subcommittee intends to learn more about the following: Where Ecstacy and other club drugs are produced; the way in which these drugs are illegally imported and just how much is currently entering our country; illegal trafficking inside our borders; harmful physical effects from their use; current strategies of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement professionals who address this issue; and in which ways Congress should respond to the surge in the popularity of Ecstasy and similar drugs.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. McCollum follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. BILL MCCOLLUM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME
Good morning and welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on the threat posed by Ecstasy and other so-called ''club'' drugs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ''club drugs'', including LSD, MDMA, GHB, Ketamine and others, are primarily used by teens and young adults who frequent nightclubs, bars, and ''raves''. Raves are generally night-long dances or parties, often held in warehouses, featuring high-energy music and light shows. While many who attend raves do not use drugs, those who do may be attracted to the seemingly increased stamina and intoxicating highs that are said to deepen the rave experience. Club drug use appears to be increasing in many cities around the country; Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Newark have reported widespread use at raves and clubs.
Methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine, otherwise known as MDMA, or its streetname ''Ecstasy'', is a synthetic drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Many problems Ecstasy users encounter are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine, and recent research links it to long-term memory damage and depression as well. Many medical professionals believe that even one dose of Ecstasy may put a use rat a much greater risk of depression in later years; however, there are some who claim that Ecstasy has no long-term negative effects. It is important to note that these beliefs are reminiscent of the claims made about LSD in the 1950s and 1960s, which were proven to be quite untrue,tragically so for many users.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Use of Ecstasy has surged dramatically in recent years, and it may well be on its way to becoming an epidemic. Seizures by the United States Customs Service have risen from less than 500,000 tablets during fiscal year 1997, to 5.7 million tablets to date this fiscal year 2000. In certain regions of the country, hospital emergency rooms have seen a dramatic increase in patients suffering negative effects of use. Arrests of Ecstasy traffickers are on the rise, as certain foreign organized crime groups have reportedly developed sophisticated and effective distribution networks, both world wide and within U.S. borders. The margin of profit is significant; for a$100,000 investment in production of 200,000 tablets, $5 million may be realized.
Just yesterday, U.S. Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly announced the arrest of25 individuals in connection with an international Ecstasy smuggling organization estimated to have imported more than 9 million tablets for distribution here in the U.S. Operation ''Paris Express'' represents the largest Ecstasy trafficking syndicate dismantled to date, and resulted in the seizure of 650,000 tablets, worth almost $20 million.
My own state of Florida has experienced a very serious problem with so-called ''designer'' or club drugs. As of May 15, Florida reported close to200 deaths over the last three years of causes related to club drug use,and this alarming trend shows no sign of abatement. Given the severity of this crisis, the Florida Office of Drug Control has undertaken an aggressive strategy to fight the spread of these drugs through legislative efforts, increased law enforcement focus, and education and outreach programs.
H.R. 4553, the ''Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000'' was introduced on May 25, 2000 by Representative Judy Biggert. This bill would increase penalties for club drug-related crimes so that they mirror the severity of the penalties associated with methamphetamine trafficking; provide federal grants for public and non-profit organizations for education programs related to club drugs; and, direct that a component of the National Youth Anti-drug Media Campaign address club drugs.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
While this is not a hearing on Ms. Biggert's legislation, nonetheless her bill is a good one, and one that is substantially similar to bipartisan legislation which has been introduced in the Senate. As we all know, our legislative window of opportunity is slowly closing for the year, and I hope to bring the bill before the Subcommittee on Crime as soon as possible.
At this oversight hearing, the Subcommittee intends to learn more about the following: 1) where Ecstasy and other ''club'' drugs are produced; 2) the ways in which these drugs are illegally imported, and just how much is currently entering our country; 3) illegal trafficking inside our borders;4) harmful physical effects from their use; 5) current strategies of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement professionals to address this issue; and 6) in which ways Congress should respond to the surge in popularity and use of Ecstasy and similar drugs.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Scott, you are recognized for an opening statement.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to join you in convening this hearing to learn more about the extent to which Ecstasy and other so-called club drugs pose a threat which may require legislative or enforcement action beyond that already given to those illegal drugs.
Most of the drugs we are talking about have been scheduled drugs for many years. As for Ecstasy, information provided in a letter from the U.S. Sentencing Commission indicates that the estimated length of imprisonment for those sentenced for Ecstasy offenses already rivals those for crack cocaine, which is obviously viewed as a standard for the ''tough on crime'' drug sentencing. I would like to make the Commission's letter and its accompanying memo and charts part of the record for this hearing.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information referred to follows:]
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC66177L.eps
Mr. SCOTT. I would also hope, Mr. Chairman, with the Commission now at full membership strength, that if we conclude that there is any reason to look at the issue of sentencing for any of the drugs from the club drug list, that rather than have Congress haphazardly set new sentences, we would avail ourselves of the opportunity to let the Commission do the job it was set up to do relative to determining what, if any, sentencing changes are needed. Since all of these drugs are already illegal, there is State as well as Federal enforcement action already occurring relative to their use. So I would hope that we would proceed with studied deliberation through this hearing and beyond rather than getting caught up in dictating political solutions to issues which are best addressed through science and research. We know, for example, Mr. Chairman, that one of those ineffective political reactions includes the use of mandatory minimum sentences which have been studied and shown to be one of the most ineffective criminal law policies that we have recently adopted.
I believe that we have an impressive group of experts on the law enforcement and scientific issues raised by the abuse of so-called club drugs. I look forward to their testimony, Mr. Chairman, and working with you to develop an appropriate congressional reaction. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Scott and referenced materials follow:]
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT C. SCOTT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to join you in convening this hearing to learn more about the extent to which ''Ecstacy'' and other so-called ''club drugs'' pose a threat which may require legislative or enforcement action beyond that already given to these illegal drugs. Most of these drugs, including Ecstacy, have been scheduled drugs for many years. Several of them, such as Rohypnol, GHB, Katamine and amphetamines, have recently received, or are currently receiving, legislative attention by the Congress.
And information provided in a letter from the US Sentencing Commission indicates that the estimated length of imprisonment for those sentenced for Ecstacy offenses already rivals those for crack cocaine which is viewed as a standard for tough drug sentencing. I would like to make the Commission's letter and its accompanying memo and charts a part of the record of this hearing.
And I would hope, Mr. Chairman, with the Commission now at full membership strength, that if we conclude there is any reason to look at the issue of sentencing for any of the drugs on the ''club drug'' list, that rather than have the Congress haphazardly set new sentences, we would avail ourselves of the opportunity to let the Commission do the job it was set up to do relative to determining what if any sentencing changes are needed. Since all of these drugs are already illegal, there is already state, as well as federal, enforcement action occurring relative to their use. so I would hope that we would proceed with studied deliberatdnes? through this hearing and beyond, rather than get caught up in dictating political solutions to issues that are best addressed through science and research.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I believe that we have an impressive group of experts on the law enforcement and scientific issues raised by the abuse of the so-called club drugs''. I look forward to their testimony, Mr. Chairman, and to working with you in developing any Congressional response deemed necessary to protect our citizens and properly enforce our laws. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.
We have less than five minutes left on a vote on a rule on the floor. This subcommittee will be in recess. We will return as soon as that vote is completed.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. The Subcommittee on Crime will come to order.
Are there any more opening statements? If not, we are prepared to introduce our panel this morning. I want to thank them for coming.
The first panel is Mr. Lewis Rice, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, the DEA's largest field office. A native of New York City, Mr. Rice began his career with DEA after graduating with a bachelor's degree from St. John's University. Joining him is Mr. John Varrone, the Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Investigations of the U.S. Customs Service. He began his law enforcement career in 1977 as a Customs Patrol Officer in the New York regional office. Mr. Varrone received his bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We want to thank both of our fine law enforcement officers for taking the time to come today on this very important subject. We welcome you. Your entire testimony will be admitted in the record and you may summarize as you see fit your testimony.
Mr. Rice, welcome. You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF LEWIS RICE, JR., SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, NEW YORK DIVISION, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. RICE. Thank you. Good morning. Chairman McCollum, distinguished members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the growing dangers and concerns over Ecstasy and other related club drugs. I would first like to thank the subcommittee for its continued support of the Drug Enforcement Administration 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 club drugs such as MDMA, GHB, Ketamine, and LSD by our youth 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 U.S. city with indications of trafficking and abuse expanding to smaller cities such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Beaumont, Texas, Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, Savannah and Florence, Georgia, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Montgomery, Alabama. Recent seizure statistics clearly illustrate this prolific growth.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
According to the Federal Drug Identification Network database, there was a tenfold increase in the number of MDMA seizures in 1999. I would just like to draw the committee's attention if I could to the chart. This shows the dramatic increase the last two years in MDMA seizures in four States in our country. As you see in 1999, we have our work cut out for us.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. You bet.
Mr. RICE. DEA is the only single mission Federal agency dedicated to drug law enforcement. The agency has developed and further advanced its ability to direct resources and manpower to identify, target, and dismantle drug organizations headquartered overseas and within the United States. The drug organizations operating today have an unprecedented level of sophistication and are more powerful and influential than any of the organized crime enterprises proceeding them. The leaders of these drug trafficking organizations oversee a drug industry that has wreak havoc on communities throughout the United States. Their principal motive is pure and simplegreed.
The synthetic drug market in the United States, particularly MDMA, traditionally has been supplied and controlled by western European based drug traffickers. In recent years, Israeli 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 for the United States distribution groups. 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 that distribution networks are expanding from coast to coast, enabling a relatively few organizations to dominate MDMA markets nationwide. At this juncture, 84 percent of our seizures are originating from the Netherlands and Belgium of MDMA coming into the country.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
What brings these drug trafficking organizations together is the enormous profit realized and the fact that there is little production of MDMA in the United States. Although estimates vary, the cost of producing an MDMA tablet can run between fifty cents to a dollar. The wholesale or first level price of MDMA tablets have ranged from $1 to $2 per tablet contingent upon the volume purchased. Once the MDMA reaches the United States, a domestic cell distributor will charge $6 to $8 per tablet. The retailer, in turn, will charge the consumer $20 to $40 per pill.
This shows the trafficking again from source countries in the Netherlands and Belgium into various other countries, to California, Florida, and New York, and also we have seen distribution designed for Canada.
In an effort to target organizations and individuals that distribute and manufacture club drugs, DEA established Operation Flashback in July 1997. In July 1998, MDMA was approved for inclusion under this special enforcement program. Since February 1998, active investigations have increased from 60 to 140, indicative of the increasing demand and availability of club drugs. Operation Flashback seeks to achieve the following objectives:
1. Develop prosecutable cases,
2. Develop intelligence links,
3. Establish and coordinate and overall strategy, and
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 4. To identify and command and control infrastructure of these organizations.
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 and brand names that they bear.
Presently, DEA has several ongoing investigations into these trafficking organizations. One particular DEA investigation of note was conducted in conjunction with the United States Customs Service and the New York City Police Department. This investigation targeted a major Ecstasy smuggling organization based in the Netherlands which operated throughout Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. Beginning in February 1999, Orthodox Jews between the ages of 18 and 20, principally Hasidic men, were recruited to serve as Ecstacy couriers. The recruiters believed that these couriers would not attract the attention of Customs Inspectors because of their conservative and religious dress and appearance. This investigation provided us with an unprecedented look into the inner-workings of an MDMA trafficking organization by identifying the leader, the courier, the methods used to transport the drugs, and, finally, how the cash proceeds were returned from the United States to Amsterdam.
In conclusion, 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 a multifaceted strategy to combat both drug trafficking and drug abuse. Due to the given age of the targeted user population of MDMA, DEA has created a very aggressive and comprehensive attack to bring this issue to the forefront by hosting various demand reduction programs throughout the United States. In addition, to further complement these prevention initiatives, DEA is working in conjunction with law enforcement officials throughout Europe and Israel to coordinate and implement the most effective overall strategy to fight this scourge.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the subcommittee. I look forward to taking any questions you may have on this important issue.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rice follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF LEWIS RICE, JR., SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, NEW YORK DIVISION, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Chairman McCollum, distinguished members of the Subcommittee: I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the growing dangers and concerns over ''Ecstasy'' and other related ''Club Drugs.'' I would first like to thank the Subcommittee for its 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 affect in communities throughout the United States. It is fair to say that the increasing use of club drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Ketamine, and LSD by our youth 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 U.S. city with indications of trafficking and abuse expanding to smaller cities such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Beaumont, Texas; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; Savannah and Florence, Georgia; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Montgomery, Alabama. Recent seizure statistics clearly illustrate this prolific growth. According to the Federal Drug Identification Network (FDIN) database, in 1998, 276,904 tablets and 118,016 grams of powder MDMA were seized (equivalent to 944,128 tablets @ 0.125g/tab) which totaled 1,221,032 tablets. Conversely, in 1999, 2,847,719 tablets along with 1,162,075 grams of powder was seized totaling 12,144,319 tablets. This translates into a ten-fold increase in the number of MDMA seizures in a one-year period. Furthermore, some abusers, primarily in the Miami and Orlando areas, are combining MDMA with heroin, a combination known as ''space.'' Perhaps most frightening is the decreased perception of risk that young teens have regarding the use of these drugs.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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, even 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. 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 1825 year old category with slightly greater than 1.4 million people reporting its use.
Because DEA is the only single-mission federal agency dedicated to drug law enforcement, the agency has developed and further advanced our ability to direct resources and manpower to identify, target and dismantle drug organizations headquartered overseas and within the United States. In carrying out its mission, DEA is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of criminals and drug gangs who perpetrate violence in our communities and terrorize citizens through fear and intimidation. The drug organizations operating today have an unprecedented level of sophistication and are more powerful and influential than any of the organized crime enterprises preceding them. The leaders of these drug trafficking organizations oversee a drug industry that has wreaked havoc on communities throughout the United States. Their principal motive is pure and simple: greed.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMDMA: The Emergence of New Drug Trafficking Organizations:
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.
Typically, these MDMA trafficking organizations are well organized, well educated, multi-lingual, and capable of producing and smuggling significant quantities of MDMA from Europe to the United States. In 1999, more than 2 million pills were seized in New York alone. The U.S. Customs Service estimates that since October 1999, approximately 5.8 million pills have been seized at various ports throughout the United States. Perhaps, the most notable estimation comes from German police officials who suspect that more than 2 million pills are smuggled into the United States each week from various cities throughout Europe. In Belgium alone, DEA reports that since March, 2000, approximately 675,000 ecstasy tablets were seized, the vast majority destined for the United States. This figure eclipses the total number of tablets seized for all Fiscal Year 1999.
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 2030 kilograms on a daily basis, although law enforcement authorities have seized some labs with the capability of producing 100 kilograms per day.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Normally, 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 (2.55 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 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: The Drug:
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 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 was patented but was 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 23 day parties. MDMA is taken orally, usually in tablet form, and its effects last approximately 46 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.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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.
Overview of ''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's 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 and are widely abused at raves. The following is a brief summary of other selected club drugs.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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. 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. These chemicals increase the effects of alcohol, and can cause respiratory distress, seizures, coma and death.
dlysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), listed as a Schedule I drug under the CSA, first emerged as a popular drug of the psychedelic generation in the 1960's. Its popularity appeared to decline in the late 1970's, 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. Typically, LSD users experience 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.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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 510 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. Recently, due to the exponential growth and abuse of Ecstasy and its devastating and potentially lethal effects, Senate bill S. 2612, was introduced by Senator Bob Graham and co-sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley. This bill 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 assure that the guidelines provide that offenses 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. Furthermore, the bill calls for greater emphasis to be placed on the education of young adults, the education and training of state and local law enforcement officials and adequate funding for research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The current federal guidelines for MDMA require a relatively complex calculation, by which MDMAlike many controlled substances not listed directly in the guidelines tablesis equated to a fixed amount of marijuana (1 gram=35 gm marijuana). The result leads to inadequate sentences. Base offense level 26 (to which five-year mandatory sentences are keyed) is reached by trafficking about 28,570 dosage units of MDMA, which weighs about 8 kilograms. (Typically, a kilogram of MDMA consists of 3,5004,000 pills).
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In addition to S. 2612, a companion bill has been introduced in the House by Congresswoman Judy Biggert. H.R. 4553 is almost identical to S. 2612, except it encompasses all ''club drugs'', to include paramethoxyamphetamine, commonly referred to as ''PMA''. In recent weeks, it is believed that ''PMA,'' an Ecstasy analogue controlled by DEA since 1973, may be responsible for the death of three young people in suburban Chicago. The three victims, an 18-year old female and two males, 17 and 20 years of age, are said to have frequented the same nightclub. The deaths are being investigated by local authorities. At this time it appears that the drug users thought they were taking MDMA, but ingested PMA instead.
Another bill relating to club drug abuse, the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Drug Act of l999, (Public Law l06172), was signed by the President on February 18, 2000. This legislation directed DEA to place GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) in Schedule I. GHB induces hallucinogenic and euphoria-like highs. It is known as a date rape drug because it can cause victims to lose consciousness, making them vulnerable to sexual assault. Research of GHB as a treatment for narcolepsy as part of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved clinical studies continues.
Furthermore, Public Law l06172 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, the taking of victim statements in connection with violation of the CSAwhich results or contributes to sexual assault, crimes of violence or other crimes involving the abuse of GHB and the other designer drugs. In addition, DEA and the FBI are 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.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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 increasing demand and availability of 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.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
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.
While investigating MDMA organizations, DEA has recognized that enforcement operations which target designer or club drug distribution at the raves differ from the enforcement efforts required to combat other illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. This can be partially attributed to the lack of strict Federal sentencing guidelinesa situation that may be improved by the pending bills mentioned earlier. As such, the vast majority of cases involving club and designer drugs are prosecuted in the state system. In essence, these trafficking organizations are aware of the lenient sentencing guidelines for MDMA and fully exploit it.
Presently, DEA has several ongoing investigations into these trafficking organizations. One particular DEA investigation of note was conducted in conjunction with the United States Customs Service and New York City Police Department. This investigation targeted a major ecstasy smuggling organization based in the Netherlands which operated throughout Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. Beginning in February 1999, Orthodox Jews, between the ages of eighteen and twenty, principally Hasidic men, were recruited to serve as ecstasy couriers. The recruiters believed that these couriers would not attract the attention of Customs inspectors.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Each courier was promised a free trip to Europe and approximately $1,500 in exchange for their services. Some couriers were also paid a finder's fee of approximately $200 for each additional courier they recruited. Many of the couriers allegedly believed that they were smuggling diamonds. Each courier smuggled between 30,000 and 45,000 ecstasy pills into the United States. During the time period of this conspiracy, the organization generally recruited three couriers per week. The couriers smuggled and attempted to smuggle drugs through Belgium, France and Canada. In a few instances, larger quantities of ecstasy between 100,000 and 200,000 per shipment were smuggled into the United States secreted inside various goods transported through the international commercial shipping system. In addition, some of the couriers smuggled drug proceeds (approximately $500,000/per trip) from New York to Amsterdam for delivery to the organizations' leader. This investigation was a resounding enforcement success because it identified an MDMA trafficking organization headed by an Israeli national who oversaw the recruitment of couriers, the shipment of drugs into the United States and the return shipment of the cash proceeds from the United States to Amsterdam.
Another case of note targeted an international MDMA and money laundering organization. This organization was responsible for the importation and distribution of approximately 50,000 MDMA dosage units per month in New York and Florida. The MDMA was imported into the United States from Europe hidden in furniture. The targets were primarily young, multi-lingual and extremely mobile violators. They frequently traveled to and from the United States throughout the duration of this investigation. In addition, the traffickers were utilizing cellular telephones, often making 7080 calls per day. The investigation resulted in numerous arrests, the seizure of approximately 40,000 MDMA dosage units, and the seizure of approximately $350,000.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDemand 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 attack to bring this issue to the forefront.
Just to provide a brief illustration of these initiatives, DEA's New England Field Division has held three demand reduction training conferences specifically on club drugs. These conferences have included Federal, state and local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, medical personnel and educators. Four additional conferences are planned by the end of this fiscal year. The Newark Field Division has conducted two club drug seminars this past year. In addition they are presently producing a video relating to a statewide club drug demand reduction education curriculum. The St. Louis Field Division held a club drug training session for Federal, state and local law enforcement officers recently. They have also participated in a number of media interviews and club drug awareness presentations. Finally, DEA Headquarters has organized a club drug conference scheduled for the latter part of July 2000. Participants will include law enforcement personnel from around the world, leading researchers, clinicians, prevention specialists, educators, and medical professionals to discuss the alarming resurgence in MDMA and other club drugs.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The DEA is continually working to develop and revise strategies to enhance enforcement effectiveness and aggressively develop investigations to dismantle significant drug trafficking organizations. We are confident that with the dedicated and tireless efforts of all our employees, we will continue to successfully address not only existing drug problems, but be proactive in devising strategies to address emerging trends in drug trafficking. As previously states, DEA will utilize a multi-faceted approach employing both enforcement and prevention strategies. In this regard, DEA is working in conjunction with law enforcement officials throughout Europe in an effort to identify, target, dismantle and prosecute those organizations responsible for the proliferation of MDMA throughout the U.S. and Europe. In addition, next month, DEA will participate in a conference in Israel that will focus on this significant issue.
I thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the Subcommittee and I look forward to taking any questions you may have on this important issue.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Rice.
STATEMENT OF JOHN VARRONE, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VARRONE. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and other distinguished members of the committee. I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to testify here today regarding the law enforcement activities of the Customs Service as they relate to the smuggling of drugs, more specifically, Ecstasy.
As the primary law enforcement agency at our Nation's borders, the U.S. Customs Service is uniquely positioned to identify, intercept, and investigate the importation of large quantities of dangerous drugs which are smuggled into the U.S. As America's front line, we often act or serve as the early warning system in identifying new drug trends or methods of operations employed by violators who attempt to smuggle drugs into the U.S. One such alarming trend that Customs has recently experienced is the dramatic increase in our seizures, investigations, and related arrests of the synthetic drug commonly known as Ecstasy.
The abuse of Ecstasy has spread throughout the U.S. at an unprecedented level. This can be attributed to two key factorsits enormous profit and the marketing techniques used by the criminal organizations who manufacture, smuggle, and distribute it. From a smuggler's standpoint, Ecstasy is one of the most lucrative drugs in the world. Tablets cost just pennies apiece to produce in Europe. They are then sold on the streets of America for as much as $40 a tablet. To give you an example, for an initial investment of $100,000, and Ecstacy smuggler can reap nearly $5 million in profit. The nearly 6 million tablets that U.S. Customs has seized thus far this fiscal year would have yielded approximately $180 million in drug proceeds.
The profit potential for Ecstasy is enhanced because of the insidious marketing techniques that smugglers and distributors employ to lure young adults and teens into using this drug. Tablets are designed with brand names and logos such as the Mitsubishi logo, the Rolex symbol, and the Adidas emblem, to name just a few. If I can take just a moment here, I believe we have an exhibit that we can pass to you with some of those logos on it.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
To distinguish one competitor's product from another, the logos are specifically selected to appeal to the young and affluent Ecstasy users. Nicknames for club drugs such as Ecstasy, Grievous Bodily Harm, or GHB, Special K for Ketamine, and Ruffies for Rohypnol, these all are used in an attempt to attract young adults to using them. These seemingly benign trademarks and enticing nicknames make it difficult for the user to associate the actual danger that the use of this drug can cause.
By comparison, during fiscal year 1999, the U.S. Customs Service seized 3 million tablets of Ecstasy, which is more than seven times the total amount of tables seized in 1997. This upward surge continues in fiscal year 2000 where we have already seized 6 million tablets during the first eight months of this year, representing a 1200 percent increase. Furthermore, during fiscal year to date, we have arrested 115 individuals involved in Ecstasy smuggling relating to the seizures at our ports of entry. In addition to Ecstasy, in fiscal year 2000 Customs has seized over 2,200 pounds of methamphetamine, representing a more than 100 percent increase over fiscal year 1999.
The vast majority of Ecstasy is produced in the Netherlands but production appears to be spreading throughout Europe. Smugglers export the drug directly from the Netherlands, primarily Amsterdam, or across the uncontrolled borders to neighboring European Union states and other international hubs such as Brussels, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Paris, or London. However, last month an Ecstasy lab was identified and dismantled by Denver, Colorado law enforcement authorities. We are monitoring this new development very closely. Domestic production would create another challenge for our law enforcement efforts.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to European production, the Caribbean area of the Dominican Republic and Curacao as well as Surinam in South America have emerged as popular staging and transit areas for Ecstasy destined to the U.S. from the Netherlands. Canadian authorities have also encountered an increasing level of production of Ecstasy within their borders.
Seizure activity and related investigations by the U.S. Customs Service have identified three primary gateway areas where Ecstasy is smuggled into the United States. These are New York, California, and Florida. It is no coincidence that these areas have emerged as focal points for Ecstasy smuggling organizations. They are all transportation centers with strong European ties, and they all have large concentrations of young adults who are the primary targeted consumers for Ecstasy, as well as large concentrations of the criminal organizations who are responsible for the smuggling of Ecstasy.
These groups use couriers from all walks of life who try to thwart Customs enforcement efforts. We have arrested teenagers, bankruptcy attorneys, and members of the clergy who were attempting to evade Customs inspection. Couriers have concealed Ecstasy in luggage, as you can see here today with the exhibit to my left, inside body cavities, and have even ingested tablets wrapped in condoms. In March we arrested an individual at JFK who had swallowed 2,800 Ecstasy tablets. Since then there have been five additional seizures and related arrests in which Ecstasy has been concealed by method of ingestion.
Until recently commercial air passengers presented the highest risk for Ecstasy smuggling. However, a recent series of large seizures at the express mail hub in Memphis, as well as a large number of smaller seizures at express consignment and international mail facilities suggest that they may be moving to these methods as methods of choice for these smuggling organizations. I have brought with me several exhibits, to my left, that will show you some examples of parcels that were intercepted in our mail facilities.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Our seizures of Ecstasy and follow-up investigations have identified numerous criminal drug smuggling organizations that are involved in this highly profitable activity. Investigations have disclosed that both Israeli and Russian organized crime groups are heavily involved. Less than a year ago, Customs, along with our colleagues in DEA and the New York City Police Department, conducted a major investigation into Ecstasy smuggling of a ring that was based in Amsterdam. Several members of this organization have recently been indicted for charges that included conspiracy to smuggle Ecstasy and money-laundering. These couriers were employed to smuggle shipments of Ecstasy through Belgium, France, and Canada for delivery to the U.S. As a result of this investigation with Dutch authorities, several conspirators were indicted and several are awaiting extradition to the U.S.
There is recent intelligence that Mexican and Colombian traffickers may be also getting involved. There are reports that South American cocaine is being exchanged for Ecstasy in Europe in lieu of currency. In early April, investigators determined that approximately 300,000 Ecstasy tablets that were seized in Mexico were destined for the U.S.
The profits from Ecstasy are also attracting more traditional organized crime groups. Another recent joint multi-agency investigation in Phoenix with DEA and the Phoenix Police Department demonstrated that Sammy ''the Bull'' Gravano, the former New York City organized crime figure, also could not resist the astounding profits that could be derived from Ecstasy smuggling and distribution.
In order to coordinate and focus our investigative efforts and enhance the flow of intelligence to our field assets on the front lines, Customs has created an Ecstasy Task Force in our headquarters here in Washington. The mission of the Task force is to manage the national/international investigative activities of multijurisdictional cases as well as to maximize the level of case exploitation and to support and enhance the day-to-day Customs inspection operations relative to Ecstasy smuggling. This Task Force routinely coordinates with DEA and our foreign counterparts to maximize our overall efficiency.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Customs has completed training of 28 narcotic detector dogs specifically for the detection of MDMA who have been deployed at key locations around the United States. On May 12, at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport, an Ecstasy-certified narcotic detector dog alerted to two soft-sided roller bags arriving from Paris which were found to contain over 31,000 pills of Ecstasy.
In an effort to better publicize this emerging threat, Commissioner Kelly has created a website to get the awareness message out to the general public.
I will briefly describe two successful Ecstasy investigations.
One case began when Customs Inspectors in Los Angeles identified three airline passengers arriving from Paris with a total of 140,000 Ecstasy pills concealed in their luggage. This organization was responsible for recruiting between 30 and 50 couriers who would be targeted at primary cities throughout the United States and attempt to smuggle Ecstasy into the country. The couriers were provided passports, airline tickets, and contact numbers to call upon arrival in France. Once in Paris, they were put up in hotels, given instructions on how to act and dress, and provided false-sided suitcases packed with Ecstasy for flights back to the U.S. Again, the exhibit over here to my left is indicative of such a luggage concealment method.
To date, this investigation has resulted in the arrest of 25 suspects, the seizure of nearly 650,000 tablets of Ecstasy, a retail value of approximately $20 million, and more than $170,000 in U.S. currency was also seized. The U.S. Customs Services estimates that this criminal organization had successfully smuggled in excess of 9 million tablets into the United States.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In a second investigation, Customs Agents in San Francisco arrested an individual for smuggling approximately 300 pounds of Ecstasy from Paris to San Francisco. This seizure, 490,000 pills, is currently the largest single seizure of Ecstasy ever effected by Customs.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to testify here today and for your continuing support to our important mission. I am confident that working together with law enforcement professionals, such as my colleague and friend, Mr. Rice, we will have a major impact against Ecstasy smuggling organizations.
That concludes my remarks. I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Varrone follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN VARRONE, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE
Good morning Mr. Chairman, and other distinguished members of the Committee. I would like to thank the Committee for this opportunity to testify here today regarding the law enforcement activities of the Customs Service as they relate to the smuggling of drugs.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The U.S. Customs Service, as one of the primary law enforcement agencies at our nation's borders, by nature of our mission is uniquely positioned to identify, intercept and investigate the importation of large quantities of dangerous drugs which are smuggled into the U.S. through our ports of entry. As America's frontline, we often act as the ''early warning system'' in identifying new drug trends or methods of operation employed by violators who attempt to smuggle drugs into the U.S. One such alarming trend, U.S. Customs has experienced a dramatic increase in our seizures, investigations and related arrests of the synthetic drug commonly known as ''Ecstasy.''
The abuse of Ecstasy has spread throughout the U. S. at an unprecedented level and can primarily be attributed to two key factors, its enormous profit and marketing techniques used by the criminal organizations who manufacture, smuggle and distribute it.
From a smuggler's standpoint, Ecstasy is one of the most lucrative drugs in the world. Tablets cost just pennies apiece to produce in Europe. They are then sold on the streets of America for as much as $40 a tablet. To give you an example, for an initial investment of $100,000, an Ecstasy smuggler can reap nearly $5 million in profit. The nearly six (6) million tablets that U.S. Customs has seized thus far in Fiscal Year 2000 (at an average price of $30 per pill), would yield approximately $180 million dollars in drug proceeds.
The profit potential for Ecstasy is enhanced because of the insidious marketing techniques that smugglers and distributors employ to lure teens into using this drug. In our status conscious society, tablets are designed with brand names and logos, such as the Mitsubishi logo, the Rolex symbol, an Adidas emblem, the Nike trademark, to name just a few. To distinguish one competitor's product from another, the logos are specifically selected to appeal to the young and affluent Ecstasy users. Nicknames for club drugs, such as Ecstasy for MDMA; Grievous Bodily Harm for GHB; Special K for Ketamine; and Roofies for Rohypnol, have an allure which make them attractive to young adults. These seemingly benign trademarks and enticing nicknames make it difficult for the user to associate the actual danger that the use of this hard drug can cause.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
During Fiscal Year 1999, U.S. Customs seized 3 million tablets of Ecstasy, more than seven times the 400,000 tablets we seized in 1997. This upward surge continues in Fiscal Year 2000, where we have already seized approximately 6 million tablets during the first eight months of this year. This represents a 1200 percent increase from 1997. Furthermore, during fiscal year to date, we have arrested 115 individuals involved in ecstasy smuggling, relating to seizures at our ports of entry. In addition to Ecstasy, in fiscal year 2000, Customs has seized over 2200 pounds of methamphetamines. This represents more than a 100% increase over fiscal year 1999.
The vast majority of Ecstasy is produced in the Netherlands, but production appears to be spreading throughout Europe. Smugglers export the drug directly from the Netherlands, primarily Amsterdam, or across the uncontrolled borders to neighboring European Union states or other international hubs such as Brussels, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Paris, or London.
Just last month, an Ecstasy laboratory was located and dismantled by Denver, Colorado, law enforcement authorities. Law enforcement authorities are monitoring this new development closely. Domestic production would create another challenge for law enforcement to address.
In addition to European production, the Caribbean area of the Dominican Republic and Curacao, as well as Surinam in South America, have recently emerged as popular staging and transit areas for Ecstasy destined to the U.S. from the Netherlands. Canada, based on its border proximity, has also become a major transshipment point for Ecstasy destined for the U.S. Canadian authorities have also encountered an increasing level of production of Ecstasy within their borders.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Seizure activity and related investigations by the U.S. Customs Service have identified three primary ''gateway'' areas where Ecstasy is smuggled into the United States: these are; New York, California, and Florida. There is no coincidence that these areas have emerged as focal points for Ecstasy smuggling organizations. They are all transportation centers with strong European ties, they all have large concentrations of young adults who are the primary targeted consumers of Ecstasy, and they are headquarters for the criminal organizations that smuggle Ecstasy.
These groups use couriers from all walks of life try to thwart Customs. We have arrested teenagers, bankruptcy attorneys, and members of the clergy who were attempting to evade Customs inspection. Couriers have concealed Ecstasy in luggage, body cavities, and have even ingested tablets wrapped in condoms.
In March, we arrested an individual at JFK Airport who had swallowed 2,800 Ecstasy tablets. Since then, there have been five additional seizures in which Ecstasy has been concealed by ingestion.
Until recently, commercial air passengers presented the highest risk for Ecstasy smuggling. However, a recent series of large seizures at the express mail hub in Memphis, as well as a large number of smaller seizures, at express consignment and international mail facilities suggest that these may be the current method of choice for smuggling organizations.
I have brought several exhibits with me today that illustrate the concealment methods used to smuggle Ecstasy into the United States. Several of these exhibits were seized at Dulles Airport.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Our seizures of Ecstasy and follow-up investigations have identified numerous criminal drug smuggling organizations that are involved in this highly profitable activity. Investigations have disclosed that the Israeli Organized Crime (IOC) are heavily involved.
Couriers associated with IOC have been arrested around the world, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, as well as locations in the U.S. such as Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan and California. In some instances, Russian Organized Crime (ROC) groups have been identified working in collusion with IOC.
Less than a year ago, Customs, along with the DEA and the NYPD, conducted an investigation into a major Ecstasy smuggling ring based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and also operated in Brooklyn and Long Island,
N.Y. Seven members of this organization were indicted for charges that included conspiracy to smuggle Ecstasy and money laundering. These couriers were employed to smuggle shipments of Ecstasy through Belgium, France, and Canada, for delivery to the U.S. As a result of foreign cooperation that included Dutch law enforcement authorities, several indicted co-conspirators were arrested in Amsterdam and are waiting extradition to the U.S.
There is recent intelligence that Mexican and Colombian traffickers are getting involved, and reports that South American cocaine is exchanged for Ecstasy in Europe in lieu of currency. In early April, investigators determined that approximately 300,000 Ecstasy tablets seized in Mexico were also destined for the U.S.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The profits from Ecstasy are also attracting more traditional organized crime groups. A recent joint investigation in Phoenix by DEA, Phoenix Police and U.S. Customs demonstrated that Sammy ''the Bull'' Gravano, the former New York organized crime figure, also couldn't resist the astounding profits from Ecstasy smuggling.
Customs Efforts to Combat Ecstasy Smuggling
In order to coordinate and focus our investigations and enhance the flow of intelligence to our field assets on the frontlines, we have created an Ecstasy Task Force at Customs Headquarters in Washington. The mission of the Task Force is to manage the national and international investigative activities of multijurisdictional cases, as well as to maximize the level of case exploitation and to support and enhance day-to-day inspectional operations relative to ecstasy smuggling. We routinely coordinate with DEA and our foreign counterparts.
In addition, intelligence and seizure information on other drugs is exchanged on a weekly basis via INTERPOL.
In March 2000, Customs completed training of 13 narcotic detector dogs (NDD) in the detection of MIDMA. Since then, an additional 15 NDD have been certified in MDMA detection and deployed in key locations. On May 12th, at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, an Ecstasy certified NDD alerted to 2 softsided roller bags arriving from Paris which were found to contain over 31,000 pills of Ecstasy.
In an effort to better deal with this emerging threat, Commissioner Kelly has also created a web-site to get the ''awareness message'' out to the public.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I will, briefly describe two successful Ecstasy investigations. One case began when Customs inspectors in Los Angeles identified three airline passengers arriving from Paris with a total of 140,000 Ecstasy pills concealed in their luggage. This organization employed between 30 and 50 couriers from throughout the U.S. The couriers were provided passports, airline tickets and contact numbers to call upon arrival in France. Once in Paris, they were put up in hotels, given instructions on how to act and dress, and provided false-sided suitcases packed with Ecstasy for flights back to the U.S. such as the one exhibit before you.
To date, this investigation has resulted in the arrest of 25 suspects, the seizure of nearly 650,000 tablets of Ecstasy (with a retail value of $19.5 million) and more than $170,000 in U.S. currency. The U.S. Customs Service estimates that this criminal organization smuggled in excess of 9 million Ecstasy tablets into the United States.
In a second case, Customs Agents in San Francisco arrested an individual for smuggling approximately 300 pounds of Ecstasy from Paris to San Francisco. This seizure (490,000 pills) is currently the largest single seizure of Ecstasy ever effected by U.S. Customs.
I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to testify here today and for your continuing support to our important mission. I am confidant that working together, the people sitting at this table can have an impact against Ecstasy smuggling organizations.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my remarks. I am prepared to answer any questions you might have for me.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. We thank you, Mr. Varrone and Mr. Rice, both, for being here.
Ms. Jackson Lee has to run to another hearing and I agreed to recognize here, with Mr. Scott's indulgence, for a moment.
Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much, Mr. Scott. The reason that I do have to leave is there is another hearing that I am holding beginning at 11.
Mr. Chairman and Mr. Scott, let me just say that this is an important hearing. Mr. Chairman, you realize that about a year ago we responded to ''date rape'' drug which has some of the similar tendencies of the Ecstasy drug.
I do want to just simply say that I will review the data of both the witnesses and the other witnesses coming forward to have the best solution for this drug. I maintain that it is important as well to stymie the desire for the drug as well, particularly among young people. I hope that we will confront that issue as well as we proceed through this hearing.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I yield back. I thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend the coommittee for holding this important hearing on the rising use of the drug Ecstasy and other club drugs. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, otherwise known as MDMA or Ecstasy has become the rage among our young people, particularly those who are part of the nightclub scene. Like Gamma Hydroxybutrate (GHB), users of MDMA, risk overdosing, damage to the central nervous system and the serotonin system. Although many young adults believe that Ecstasy is a harmless pill that looks like nothing more than aspirin, but this drug kills brain cells and can be lethal to first time users. Moreover, the low resulting when the drug begins to wear off causes depression and thoughts of suicide among its users.
The problem with Ecstasy is that it attracts many young adults who believe that Ecstasy is an alternative or a more elite form of drug use than sticking a needle in their arm full of crack. Consequently, Ecstasy has infiltrated many familiar club scenes, especially on the East Coast.
The ready availability of ecstasy is extremely alarming since established drug dealers are now taking over the trade and making it available in places like San Marcos, Texas, a town of 39,000 where authorities found 500 pills last month.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I am particularly concerned about this drug because it reminds me of the problems associated with Gamma-hydroxy butyrate CGHB''), that caused of the death of Hillory J. Farias, of Laporte Texas, after she unintentionally drank GHB (gamma hydroxybutryate) which was poured into her soft drink, on August 51 1996.
Like GHB, Ecstasy is particularly dangerous because its dangers are still relatively unknown to users and can be given to unsuspecting victims.
I am also concerned that Ecstasy has grown especially in small communities in my home state of Texas and that in recent years, its use has increased significantly.
A recent Time Magazine article even addresses the fact that ecstasy use, although not physically addictive, it especially growing among teenagers because it is considered ''cool.''
Although the number of people who use ecstasy remains small, ecstasy use is growing. Time magazine reports that 8% of U.S. high school seniors say they have tried it at least once, up from 5.8% in 1997 even though teen use of most other drugs has declined.
Nevertheless, though I support increased penalties for drugs like Ecstasy, I do not support the use of mandatory minimums because the use of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements often has a disproportionate effect upon people of color.
My bill, H.R. 75, the Hillory J. Farias Date Rape Drug Prevention Act, I believe it is more appropriate way to address the abuse of club drugs like ecstasy. Instead of instituting mandatory minimums, I believe it is more appropriate to place drugs like Ecstasy on a higher schedule by which the U.S. Sentencing Commission can effectively implement the necessary penalties.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I look forward to hearing from the panelists present today so that we can determine the most effective strategy to deal with the increasing use of MDMA, including prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Whether this includes introducing a similar bill like my bill, H.R. 75, the Hillory J. Farias Date Rape Drug Prevention Act, I am not certain; however, I believe that the testimony given today will help me to determine the appropriate action to take.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Ms. Jackson Lee.
I will recognize myself for five minutes.
Mr. Varrone, I have a package in front of me here that says on the front of it is 1,098 grams, street value $151,410. I think we have that out of your display case over there. These are little tiny green tablets that are in here. This obviously was smuggled in. My understanding is that this came in on somebody's person. Do you know where this one came from?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, that particular seizure was made out at Dulles Airport, sir.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Right here.
Mr. VARRONE. Yes.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCOLLUM. Obviously, this is a large quantity. Would a person who uses this, let's say a kid at a rave scene, is it one of these tablets or more? How would they use it?
Mr. VARRONE. I understand one of these tablets lasts three to four hours. But there are many people who take multiple tablets over the course of an evening.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And they would pay what kind of price range for this?
Mr. VARRONE. They would pay approximately between $20 and $40 as the range.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And this is a typical size seizure in your experience, or is this average or more than average?
Mr. VARRONE. Unfortunately, that is becoming not average. We had a 70 pound one just two nights ago at JFK Airport. That one is I would suggest on the smaller side.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. This is only a couple of pounds by my best guess.
Mr. VARRONE. Just over a kilogram.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And you got 70 pounds that you seized.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And it is becoming more typical something on the size of 70 pounds than this?
Mr. VARRONE. The higher weights are becoming much more typical.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Wow.
Mr. Rice, you put a chart up on the screen that really got my attention a minute ago. You had several of them up there, but one you put up there was one that showed that 40 percent of this is going into my State of Florida, higher even that in the State of New York?
Mr. RICE. That is right.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Any particular reason why you think that is happening? Have you all analyzed this at all?
Mr. RICE. Well, our evidence shows us that this drug is directly tied to the rave club scene. We have not seen distribution of this drug anywhere on the streets of the United States. Usually, it is indoors at the rave club scene. So wherever there are rave clubs, and young people.
The users primarily are college kids or people in their early twenties. A typical night will consist of a young person ingesting one to two tablets, six to fifteen hours of intensive dancing because the use of the drug depresses your need to eat or sleep, and then basically it is a body shut-down requiring large amounts of sleep. So wherever there is a rave club, and I guess there are a lot of rave clubs maybe in the State of Florida, we find this drug being used quite frequently.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. With regard to the traffickers that are involved in this, the Netherlands seem to be the number one source. Mr. Varrone, you mentioned that there were some evidences that other organized criminal elements, more traditional criminal elements are getting involved in this. Are the folks who have been involved up till now involved only in the issue of Ecstasy? That is the only criminal pattern that you have got, other than the ones that are now getting engaged in the more organized criminal activity?
Mr. VARRONE. The analysis that we have from the seizure activity over the last three years strongly suggests that it is the Russian organized crime and Israeli organized crime groups who are controlling the smuggling into the United States.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Russian organized crime?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And the Israeli?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. When you say Israeli, that is obviously not the government. There is an organized Israeli group just like there is a Russian group, is that the idea?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I have been familiar with Russian organized crime group for other reasons. They are prevalent in my State in certain respects otherwise than for this purpose. I was not aware there was a particularly major criminal organized group in Israel. Is this group just focused on Ecstasy, or do we have other crimes that the Israeli group is associated with?
Mr. VARRONE. I do not have specific knowledge on what other crimes the Israeli organized crime groups are involved in. There are some stolen car rings that we have uncovered, but in my experience it has been predominantly with Ecstasy.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. This drug, Mr. Rice, could be produced anywhere, it just happens to be they are making it in the Netherlands more frequently or now in Canada. Is that not correct?
Mr. RICE. Yes. It is somewhat difficult to produce. The chemicals required on the DEA Chemical Watch List. So we really do not see in the future significant production of this drug in the United States. However, in the Netherlands and in Belgium we see increasing production of the drug.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Is there an effort to get the Netherlands and Belgium to restrict these chemicals and watch them as carefully as we do in the United States, or is it legal to produce these drugs over there?
Mr. RICE. No, it is illegal over there. Recently, and I am talking about maybe within the past couple of months, the Belgium authorities are really increasing their look at Ecstasy production because of the amount of the drug coming into the United States. They have taken a serious look at that and are working in concert with our agents assigned in that country.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. But that is not true of the Netherlands?
Mr. RICE. That is true of the Netherlands also. Primarily it has been the Netherlands, but Belgium now is really coming forward and increasing more of this drug. And the allure is the price. Of all the drugs out there, the $25 to $40 when you can make it in the source country for fifty cents to a dollar, drug trafficking organizations are really gravitating toward this drug. Recently, we have seen traditional cocaine trafficking organizations trying to get involved in the Ecstasy distribution also.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. The reason I am probing as much as I am is that it strikes me that if we have the ability to discourage its production in the United States because we watch the precursor chemicals, then if we can get the governments of Belgium and the Netherlands and anywhere else it is being produced to watch the precursors as well on a pattern or a model as we do, then perhaps it can be more discouraged over there. I realize that is a policy concern, but it strikes me that is what you are really telling me we need to do.
Mr. RICE. That would help us dramatically.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You indicated that the precursor chemicals are on the DEA Chemical Watch List. Is it illegal to import the precursor chemicals one at a time?
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. RICE. We get notified when large amounts of these chemicals are ordered.
Mr. SCOTT. But if you were in Canada and purchased a bucketful of whatever the chemicals are, and you imported the chemicals one at a time and got stopped at the border, would you be committing a crime to take a bucketful of one of the precursor chemicals across the border?
Mr. RICE. I am not exactly sure of the answer to that question.
Mr. VARRONE. If I understand your question, sir, I believe the chemicals' entry in any quantity into this country is controlled by DEA and I think it is illegal to enter any quantity of those chemicals into the United States. I do not know if that is the same in Canada or in Mexico.
Mr. SCOTT. So not only is Ecstasy illegal, but possession of a quantity of the precursor chemical is also illegal? What are the precursor chemicals? What are we talking about? You don't know? Okay.
Mr. Varrone, how did you catch the people in Memphis?
Mr. VARRONE. Actually, the Memphis mail facility, the hub there with all the express consignment, the packages will arrive there and then we will traditionally involve either Drug Enforcement Administration or the Postal authorities and we will deliver the parcel to the ultimate consignee somewhere in the United States. Most of them are not targeted for Memphis, the packages just arrive in Memphis.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. SCOTT. And how did you know that there were drugs inside the package?
Mr. VARRONE. Either through x-ray or through the search process there.
Mr. SCOTT. You stopped about 6 million tablets. What portion of the total amount of drugs coming in do you think you caught?
Mr. VARRONE. I really cannot qualify that with Ecstasy because I do not know the volume of production, I do not know market share in other places like Europe and Asia. Unlike cocaine where they do foreign crop estimates and they can come up with percentages, on Ecstasy I cannot, sir.
Mr. SCOTT. Have you tested the dogs to see how accurate they are in catching packages? If you put a conveyor belt full of stuff and put some Ecstasy in a suitcase, how accurate are the dogs?
Mr. VARRONE. The degree of accuracy is currently being measured. We only in the last four or five months have trained the 28 dogs and deployed them and we routinely evaluate their competency. We had the one case in Chicago which was a positive hit. But I do not have the data with me about how successful they have been to date.
Mr. SCOTT. All the questions are going to the point, I guess, that as long as you can make $20 to $40 for a $1 investment, what do you need to do to really stop Ecstasy from coming into the country and so that you would be able to restrict the supply enough so that those who want it cannot get it? Or is that a reasonable goal?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. RICE. I think it is a very reasonable and admirable goal. I think the success of any effective program would be twofold: one would be aggressive law enforcement, not only working with our law enforcement partners in the United States, to include the other Federal, State, and city agencies, the prosecutors also, and also working with our police contacts throughout the world and really to strengthening the sentencing for those involved in the distribution of Ecstasy.
Mr. SCOTT. Do you think it is reasonable to expect that if we spend enough money that we can reduce the supply enough so that an addict could not get any?
Mr. RICE. That is the goal. The second part is
Mr. SCOTT. Is that a reasonable expectation that we could get there?
Mr. RICE. I think we can. The second part of that goal would be a very active and aggressive demand reduction program where we get the message out to the kids, not really scare tactics but let them know if they use these drugs what the consequences are.
Mr. SCOTT. I have just got a couple of seconds left. What are you doingyou have these parties where Ecstasy is apparently being distributed to anybody that comes up to a dealer that wants some. They are just kind of indiscriminately selling it.
Mr. RICE. Right.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. SCOTT. It seems to me that is not very much of a challenge from a law enforcement point of view to put an end of that kind of stuff.
Mr. RICE. The Federal response would be to attack the leaders of these organizations that are working in foreign countries and sending large amounts of this drug to the United States. The minimum amount of shipments usually through the express service is 10,000 pills, which is a lot of pills for a one-time group. So we are working with our foreign counterparts and the police officials throughout the country to identify the leadership of these organizations, and working with police officials in New York City, in particular, and these club owners that are really giving tacit approval to the use of this drug.
Mr. SCOTT. You know where the parties are.
Mr. RICE. Sure.
Mr. SCOTT. You have got undercover agents kind of wandering around and watching what is going on.
Mr. RICE. Sure.
Mr. SCOTT. Is that much of a challenge to put an end to that?
Mr. RICE. Several years ago there was an infamous club in New York City called the Tunnel Night Club owned by a fellow by the name of Peter Gatien. After a several year investigation, numerous undercover buys, I would say maybe 40 to 50 people pled guilty. The lead defendant, the owner of the club, decided to go to trial. After a very vigorous three week trial in the Eastern District of New York, he was found by a jury of his peers not guilty.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The challenge is out there and we accept the challenge. But once we arrest them and put them before the bar of justice, it is up to the jury.
Mr. SCOTT. At these rave parties, how many kids are we talking about?
Mr. RICE. Hundreds of kids, hundreds.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before us. Please forgive my ignorance, I know that the drug Ecstasy is illegal to use or possess, can you share with me though why it is a danger to the public health. What are the negative health consequences of its use?
Mr. RICE. (We have seen) The effects of long-term use are undergoing a study right now. This is a recent phenomena for us with the Ecstasy use. When you compare the amount of seizures taking place, during the decade of the 1990's they were minimal, but you compare 1998 to 1999 and you see a dramatic increase. So medical science I think is just now going through the study of the effects. But we do know that experimental use of Ecstasy destroys brain cells. It will manifest itself with depression, memory loss, anxiety, and restlessness, kidney failure, increased body temperature, and stroke.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. ROTHMAN. For example, if one were to drive under the influence of Ecstasy, would that impair their driving ability sufficient to cause a danger to other drivers?
Mr. RICE. Absolutely. Any illegal substance, if you are operating a vehicle or machinery, you pose a danger to yourself and the general public.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Has it been found to be the case with Ecstasy?
Mr. VARRONE. I do not think that we have the data yet in the drug testing of people who have been in car accidents to make that determination. But I can add to what Mr. Rice has said, Mr. Rothman. It releases serotonin from the brain which is a regulated chemical that affects a lot of different things that you do. My understanding is that the constant use of it changes the regulation in everybody's body chemistry. The people who have died, and there have been numerous drug deaths related to Ecstasy, most of the data on that shows poly-drug use, Ecstasy in combination with some other drug.
I was recently down in Florida and they attribute 180 deaths of youth to club drugs, designer drugs, most of them poly-drug usage over the last three years. With the amount of adulterants that are in the pill, there have been cases where strychnine in combination inside the Ecstasy pills.
I think that public awareness to the young people in this country is not out there yet. And part of this is that they have to get educated. It is a serious drug and abuse of it is I think very serious.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. ROTHMAN. If you know, is serotoninagain, forgive my ignorance, I am just a lawyeris serotonin released in the body naturally, or what causes it to be released and on what occasions?
Mr. VARRONE. It is the mood changer. It is the chemical in your body that changes your mood. So for the people who use it their mood is clearly altered and their recovery of that is normally regulated. I have been told that when you change that then that regulation may or may not come back, in addition to some brain damage that
Mr. ROTHMAN. So if you see a beautiful painting or hear some wonderful music, serotonin may be released in your body naturally?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ROTHMAN. And so this drug releases it on demand, so to speak?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes.
Mr. ROTHMAN. And that is a bad thing.
Mr. VARRONE. Forgive me, I am not a doctor or a chemist, but I am told by people who have been engaged in this analysis, some of the scientific evidence that we have read so far is that it will regulate it or unregulate it to the point where you can no longer control it. So your impulses could be changed permanently.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. ROTHMAN. Plus the adulterants, you never know what is mixed in with it.
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you.
Mr. MCCOLLUM.Thank you, Mr. Rothman.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Chairman, I will yield back my time and reserve that for the next panel.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much.
Before I dismiss this panel, I just want to make sure we have clarified a couple of things. On the mailing of this, I know most of this seems to be smuggled by plane now, but you indicated I think, Mr. Rice, Mr. Varrone, one of you, that the Post Office or the mails were being used for this. How common is that? Is it more common to be found in private express carrier packaging or in the U.S. Postal Service? Do we have any information on that?
Mr. ROTHMAN. Our investigations have shown that use of the express services for express mail into the country for various
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Private commercial express mail?
Mr. RICE. Yes.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. That is the most common way of doing it?
Mr. RICE. False luggage, false-sided furniture, the body carry, ingestion. The normal means of smuggling that traditional cocaine organizations and heroin organizations use the Ecstasy traffickers are using also.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I am curious whether or not, maybe Mr. Varrone knows this, private express carriers are required to provide an advance electronic manifest to you on each package that enters this country. Is that currently required?
Mr. VARRONE. Yes, sir. The challenge with the express consignments versus the U.S. mail is that you are able to track your parcel much better and violators know that if there is any delay in the tracking of that parcel that U.S. Customs or DEA or someone has intercepted that parcel. It also gives the recipient some anonymity when they know that. They routinely send it to post office boxes or to places where there is no one there to pick it up. So it just creates a challenge for us in law enforcement. Also, if they are smuggling a product through express mail industry, the guaranteed get there on time sort of thing, I think they have a higher expectation that the package will get delivered on a more timely basis than through the U.S. mail system.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCOLLUM. If the United States Postal Service provided you with an advance manifest, would that assist in enforcement, Mr. Varrone?
Mr. VARRONE. I think that the volume of mail that comes in, we would not have the resources capable of going through that and doing some preliminary targeting the way we can currently.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. The last thing I want to clarify, and now Mr. Rothman has a burning question over there to follow up, is there a need, Mr. Rice or Mr. Varrone, in your opinion for additional laws or law changes to combat this particular drug, or have we got the laws on the books and we just need to get out and enforce them and get the Belgium and Netherlands governments to do cooperative efforts?
Mr. RICE. I think it may be a good idea to take a look at the Federal sentencing laws regarding Ecstasy in particular.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right.
Mr. VARRONE. If I may add, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Certainly, Mr. Varrone.
Mr. VARRONE. I concur 100 percent with what Mr. Rice has said. Right now, the Federal sentencing guidelines seem like four to five years. Many States have the first offense in Ecstasy as eight and one-third years and up. It is classified in such a way that it is equivalent to marijuana in the sentencing guidelines. I think that it is more serious and needs to be looked at closely.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Yes, Mr. Scott?
Mr. SCOTT. On that point, I think in my opening statement I made a comment that, upon review, I am not sure exactly where the sentencing guidelines are. The information we have from the sentencing guidelines I think may be a bit confusing and I will ask the Sentencing Commission to clarify, because what Mr. Varrone said I think upon reflection is more accurate than what I said.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your indulgence.
Have we seen a growing use of Ecstasy amongst junior high school and high school kids? What is the nature of the use amongst those populations?
Mr. RICE. Primarily we have seen users from age 16 to maybe the early 20's, middle to upper-middle class people because of the price of the drug at $25 to $40 a pop. I know there is a lot of concern at the high schools and the universities about this drug, not only among the kids but the teachers also.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
My daughter attends a small Catholic all girls school in northern New Jersey and at one of the parents forums talking about drunk driving, because of the girls getting ready to go to the prom, there was a question raised about Ecstasy and it took over the whole session for about the next two hours, to the extent that we sent agents back to the school to spend a day talking to the kids and the teachers about Ecstasy, how it looks, what the effects are, why it is not a good drug to try at these clubs.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Is it habit-forming, addicting?
Mr. RICE. I do not think that the research on whether it is physically addicting is out yet. But we do know that you will build up a tolerance with continued use.
Mr. ROTHMAN. If you know, are the active ingredients in this drug such that would be prescribable by physicians to adults? In other words, from what I understand from you is correct, this is a mood elevator in addition to the speeding up of the system.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Rothman, with all due respect, I think the next panel is designed to get into all of that, the medical. I do not know that Mr. Rice or Mr. Varrone have that kind of expertise.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Okay. I will wait until then, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Anybody else have another question? If not, I would like to thank this panel for being here with us here today. You were very gracious to be here and we appreciate it very much, Mr. Rice, Mr. Varrone.
Mr. RICE. Thank you.
Mr. VARRONE. Thank you.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Our next panel consists of several witnesses. As I call their names, and with staff's assistance, we would like them to come forward to the table.
Dr. David McDowell is the founding medical director of STARS, the Substance Treatment and Research Service at Columbia University. After graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Dr. McDowell completed his residency in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and is a graduate of the Fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital and the New York University Hospital. He also is in private practice in general psychiatry in Manhattan, and is board certified in psychiatry as well as addiction psychiatry.
Dr. DesRochers, our second witness on this panel, is an emergency room physician at the Community Medical Center in Toms River, New Jersey. Dr. DesRochers graduated from New Jersey Medical School and completed his emergency medicine residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He has given lectures to the Drug Enforcement Administration on the Ecstasy and club drug issue, and has participated in a round-table on Ecstasy and club drugs for the Community Medical Center TV show.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Andrea Craparotta is an investigator in the Middlesex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor's Office. Ms. Craparotta received her bachelor's degree in education, a New Jersey Teacher Certification at Montclair State University, and a master's degree in education. She joined the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office in 1990 where she was assigned to the narcotics task force. With over 10 years in the field of narcotics, Investigator Craparotta has extensive experience in undercover operations having served as an undercover operative on hundreds of occasions for municipal, county, and various other law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Eladio Paez is a detective with the city of Miami Police Department. Detective Paez has been with the department for 19 years, including 16 years with the special investigations section in the narcotics unit. He has conducted numerous undercover narcotic investigations at all levels, acquiring extensive knowledge of the drug underworld and the rave subculture. In 1995 he received the city of Miami Officer of the Year Award, and he has taught and lectured for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Florida Intelligence Unit, the International Narcotics Enforcement Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He attended Miami-Dade Community College and is a graduate of South Florida Institute of Criminal Justice.
Dr. Phillip Jenkins is a distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. He has published 14 books and over 100 articles on various topics relating to crime, justice, and our understanding of the social problems. Dr. Jenkins received his doctorate from Cambridge University, and has taught at Pennsylvania State University since 1980.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our final panelist is Dr. Jonathan Caulkins, the director of RAND Corporation's Pittsburgh office. From 1990 until 1999, he was professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University Hinds School of Public Policy. Dr. Caulkins specializes in mathematical modeling and systems analysis of social policy problems and has focused past work on such issues as drugs, crime, and violence. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Washington University and his Ph.d. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
We are very pleased to have this panel here. I have already represented that you can answer all these highly technical questions. I hope that is true. In any event, what we want to do is proceed from my left to right and ask each of you to give a summary of your testimony, hopefully in about five minutes or so, so that we have time for questioning. Your entire written testimony will be admitted into the record.
So without any further ado, Dr. McDowell, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF DAVID MCDOWELL, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND DIRECTOR COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SUBSTANCE TREATMENT RESEARCH SERVICE, NEW YORK, NY
Mr. MCDOWELL. Chairman McCollum, distinguished members, it is my pleasure to speak to you today.
In the process of maturation, young people develop independence and identities. Part of this process is identification with communities. One particular community has as a central unifier club drugs. Club drugs are so-called because of the places in which they are used. These substances are not united by physiology, mechanism of action, or even subjective effect. They are united by who uses them and in what context.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The most widely talked about is MDMA or Ecstasy, but there are many others. The use of these substances is often portrayed as harmless fun. In many instances, this is in keeping with the experience of those who use them. Ecstasy produces a high that lasts between four and six hours and the most striking effects are stimulation and an intense feeling of connectedness or empathy. Individuals, young or old, who use Ecstasy, when it is not adulterated with possibly dangerous compounds, usually do feel empathy, they do feel bonded.
There are significant negative effects as well. Ecstasy can produce a substantial increase in heart rate and blood pressure. They also lead to dehydration, over-heating, and heart or kidney failure. Cases of extreme over-heating in death can be attributed to Ecstasy. Such severe, immediate, and negative reactions are, thankfully, uncommon. MDMA does, however, routinely cause after effects, a feeling of depletion, feeling wiped out, a low energy for days, even weeks. In some individuals it can precipitate severe depression. I saw a young man in my practice just six days ago, he had spent his previous week depressed and suicidal after using Ecstasy for the first time in six months.
Club drugs and Ecstasy are inexorably linked with night life and with raves. Raves are, as you heard before, all night dance marathon parties with sometimes thousands of attendees. At raves, groups of young people dance to rapid electronically synthesized music. These events usually take place in unregulated and unlicensed locations such as stadiums, abandoned warehouses, and other surreptitious arenas, but similar events do take place in commercial clubs. These may be very large, as I said, drawing thousands of participants and are a worldwide phenomena. At raves, many participants take Ecstasy and other club drugs alone or in multiple combinations.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Compelling, but mostly indirect scientific evidence supports the notion that Ecstasy can cause long lasting, possibly permanent, damage to an essential part of the central nervous system. It may cause the destruction of serotonin axons. Serotonin is one of the most basic neurotransmitters and an integral way in which the brain regulates itself as well as the rest of the body. Serotonin is involved in such vital functions as the maintenance of mood, of appetite, of sexual function, and energy level. Evidence from animal studies indicates that MDMA, Ecstasy, in doses that overlap with those taken by young people at raves and clubs, causes similar damage. Human studies show that the breakdown products of serotonin are lower in those that use Ecstasy than in those that do not. Brain imaging studies confirm that people who use Ecstasy possess comparatively decreased levels of serotonin.
This may in fact not mean very much. Living organisms have wonderfully redundant systems that may withstand substantial amounts of destruction with no appreciable difference in function. Many biological systems are adaptable and there is plenty of reserve. Ecstasy warrants our attention and caution because if the axonal destruction in humans does occur, the appreciable effects of that damage may not show up for decades.
There is a growing, but not yet definitive, number of research studies supporting the conclusion that individuals who use Ecstasy do have cognitive changes compared to those who have never taken the drug. With the use of Ecstasy, portions of the serotonin system reserves may be destroyed. As individuals who have used MDMA get older and this integral system is depleted, as is the natural course, the reserve that would be relied on may not be there.
We know that low serotonin levels are associated with such serious consequences as depression, violence, and suicide. In an individual with no predisposition to depression, this may not ever have any consequences. But to one with some predisposition, this may tip the balance. To someone else who has a severe predilection to depression, this may make the consequences more severe and difficult to treat. As I said to my patient who had recently used Ecstasy, ''We already need two medications to treat your depression. Do you want to make it more likely we will need to use double that, or not be able to relieve your symptoms at all?''
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Individuals who use one club drug frequently use several, often at the same time. Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), is a club drug that has been the cause of a rash of fatal and near-fatal overdoses in the recent past. Other addicting club drugs, such as Ketamine (Special K), Rohypnol (Ruffies), as well as several others, are found at raves frequently. There are other dangers associated with club drugs and the events that promote their use. As people become enamored with the scene, they may wish to stay up later and their drug intake may progress because Ecstasy is increasingly ineffective the more doses one takes. Their intake may progress to include cocaine or crystal methamphetamine. We know that young people who use drugs at an earlier age are more likely to use more drugs in the future.
Another danger is the consequence of how expensive Ecstasy is. This makes a strong incentive for those selling the tablets to adulterate them with other, cheaper drugs or chemicals. Such adulteration is all too common and can be quite dangerous.
The social venues that I mentioned previously have much that makes them appealing to young people. They can provide a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. The people who attend them are friendly, playful, and enjoyable. The use of multiple drugs is, however, exceedingly common. Anyone who has ever been to a rave can clearly see the obvious results of the single and multiple drug use. What the consequences of this drug use will be in the decades to come is unclear, but it is worrisome.
At this point in time, it is not conclusive that Ecstasy causes brain damage. It does appear highly likely that this damage occurs. It also appears that the more one uses MDMA the greater the extent of the damage. This may be a physiological time bomb. Significant resources would be well spent in an effort to deal with this potentially serious issue, especially education and treatment. Such education and prevention efforts are best if they rely on realistic and readily available data. Efforts that employ unconvincing scare tactics and are not in sync with the experience of the people who use these drugs could be counterproductive.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It is understandable why so many people find raves and the club drugs used there so appealing. Ecstasy, in particular, despite the negative after-effects, is alluring and seductive. Of serious concern, there is a likelihood that significant damage is being done to individuals who use Ecstasy, damage of which the extent and consequences may not become apparent for decades. I thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Dr. McDowell follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DAVID MCDOWELL, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND DIRECTOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SUBSTANCE TREATMENT RESEARCH SERVICE, NEW YORK, NY
In recent years, so called ''club drugs'' have become a regular part of many young people's social life. MDMA, better known as ''Ecstasy,'' is asynthetic amphetamine derivative, with some unique physiological properties. MDMA can induce negative side effects such as depression. A
serious concern is the potential that MDMA may cause long lasting, or even permanent, damage to a sensitive portion of the central nervous system, the serotonin system. There is mounting evidence that MDMA causes the destruction of a portion of the serotonin cell, and that this has a functional impact. Furthermore, the extent of this damage may not be apparent for many years. There are a number of other ''club drugs,'' such as Ketamine'' as well as GHB-gamma hydroxybuterate, which has been implicated in numerous deaths by overdose. Awareness of these particular substances,as well as their dangers, is an important step in order to implement more effective legal, therapeutic, and educational strategies.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Much has been written about substance abuse within the youth culture. Some recent evidence indicates that the rates of such substances are rising. There are some illicit substances that are especially popular among young people. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), Ketamine, and GammaHydroxybutyrate (GHB) are unique compounds, differing in terms of their pharmacological properties and their phenomenological effects. They are particularly popular among young people who are part of the ''rave'' culture,but are used extensively by a wide variety of different people. Because of their use at various nightclubs, raves and other social events, they are widely known as ''club drugs.''
In recent years, the popularity of ''club drugs'' has been in extricable linked with the rise of the rave phenomenon. Raves first became popular in England during the late 1980s and have since spread to the United States and the rest of the world. In the early 1990s, raves were considered ''the next big thing,'' a rising trend. Although their popularity has not grown dramatically, it has remained relatively constant. These events remain part of the popular youth culture, and are encountered in numerous venues. A mainstream example of this is ''Groove,'' a movie about the rave culture,which opened commercially last week and was chosen as an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival.
At raves, groups of young people (typically in their teens) dance to rapid electronically synthesized music with no lyrics (techno). These events take place in unregulated and unlicensed locations such as stadiums, abandoned warehouses, and other surreptitious arenas. Since the early nineties, the venues have become increasingly mainstream. These drugs, along with marijuana and LSD, are extremely popular at these events. At some of these events, as many as 70% of rave participants are using Ecstasy, Ketamine, or GHB, along with other drugs such as marijuana and LSD.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Another event where these drugs are commonly used are at ''circuit parties.''Circuit parties are large-scale social events, which have become increasingly popular over the last decade. At these events, several thousand people, mostly (but not exclusively) young gay men, congregate in a dance club setting. Recently, they have become much larger, and spawned a worldwide industry, including a magazine called Circuit Noize, which is dedicated to issues related to circuit parties.
MDMA has unique subjective and biochemical properties. Recreational use of MDMA has been illegal since it was made a Schedule I drug on July 1, 1985. Prior to that time, because it was not mentioned in the controlled substances act of 1970, its use was unregulated and therefore legal. In spite of its present illegal status, the popularity of MDMA has skyrocketed in the past several years. In the past several months it has become readily apparent that the trafficking of the drug, and its use, is far more widespread than once believed. This rise in usage has been particularly marked among adolescents, where MDMA usage is prevalent at raves, and other night life settings.
Research in mammals and non-human primates has shown that MDMA damages brain serotonin axons. These species share many characteristics with their human counterparts. The weight of scientific evidence indicates that Ecstasy does the same in humans. Research with MDMA in humans is logistically and scientifically difficult to accomplish, thus the evidence that MDMA is neurotoxic in humans comes indirectly from these studies. A number of recent research articles have demonstrated that individuals who use ecstasy, compared to matched controls who have not used MDMA, have decreased amounts of serotonin metabolites in their spinal fluid, and decreased serotonin activity as measured by brain imaging and cognitived elicits. The direct implication is that using MDMA does indeed damage neurons. This is particularly germane for individuals who may be prone to mental illness, because it is known that lower serotonin metabolite levels correspond with depression, impulsiveness, and suicide.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
MDMA's appeal rests primarily on its psychological effect. It causes a dramatic and consistent feeling of attachment and connection. This feeling of connection is not necessarily to another individual, but rather, people who use the drug alone may feel ''connected to'' the larger world. Ecstasy is perhaps a misnomer; the LA dealer who coined the term wanted to call the drug ''Empathy'', but asked, ''Who would know what that means?''
MDMA is not a new drug. Merck in Darmstadt, Germany first patented it in 1914. MDMA was probably first created as so many compounds were at that time, to serve for subsequent research. Except for a minor chemical modification in a patent in 1919, there is no other known historical record of MDMA until the 1950's. At that time, the United States Army experimented with MDMA, as well as with numerous other compounds. The resulting informational material was declassified and became available to the general public in the early 1970s. MDMA was apparently not used on humans at that time.
MDMA was probably first used by humans in the late 1960s. It was lionized as a recreational drug by free thinkers and ''New Age Seekers,'' people who liked its property to induce feelings of well-being and connection. Given this capacity, a number of practitioners and researchers interested in insight-oriented psychotherapy believed it would be an ideal agent to enhance therapy. It was used extensively for this purpose, until it became illegal in 1985.
In the early 1980's, MDMA had an explosion in popularity. The drug's capacity to induce feelings of connection, as well as a psychomotoragitation, that can be pleasurably relieved by dancing, made it the ideal''party drug.'' In spite of widespread usage during the early 1980s, the drug did not attract much attention from law enforcement officials. This is not particularly surprising in that individuals on the drug tend to be complacent and docile.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Events in Texas, especially in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, changed this lack of notoriety. Until 1985, the drug was not scheduled or regulated and its use was legal. A distribution network in Texas began an aggressive marketing campaign and, for a time, the drug was available over the counter at bars, at convenience stores, and even through a toll-free number. This attracted the attention of then Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen (the future vice presidential candidate, and Secretary of the Treasury). He petitioned the FDA, and the compound was placed on Schedule I on an emergency basis as of July 1, 1985. Originally, three hearings were scheduled to determine MDMA's permanent scheduling status. At that time, the compound's neurotoxicity was already an issue; as a result, MDMA was placed on Schedule I on a permanent basis. Schedule I refers to substances that have no therapeutic value, and which are considered to have high abuse potential. Clinical use is therefore prohibited, and because of the intense regulation of Schedule I compounds, research with MDMA is technically possible, but very difficult to execute.
The chemical synthesis of MDMA is relatively simple, and it is often made in illicit laboratories. In addition, it is often ''cut'' with other substances so the purity and dosage varies substantially. It currently sells in urban areas for about $25 to $30 per 125 mg tablet, which produces the sought after effect in most intermittent users.
Tablets of MDMA are usually taken by mouth. Other methods of administration are much less popular, and virtually unheard of. The usual single dosage is between 100150 mg. The effect of MDMA occurs in several stages. The initial stage begins with the onset of effect 2040 minutes after in gestion and is experienced as a sudden, amphetamine like ''rush.'' Other effects,that simultaneously accompany the ''rush,'' can be nausea, usually mild, but sometimes severe enough to cause vomiting, as well as the intense desire to defecate, known as a ''disco dump.''
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The second, or ''plateau stage,'' of drug effect lasts between three and six hours. Most users experience this feeling as a powerful connection to those around them; this may include the larger world. According to most users,this profound feeling of relatedness to the rest of the world is the reason to take the drug. In general, people on the drug appear to be less aggressive, and less impulsive than their non-drug using counterparts.Users also experience an altered perception of time and a decreased inclination to perform mental and physical tasks. Although the desire for sex can increase, the ability to achieve arousal and orgasm for both sexes is greatly diminished. It has thus been termed a sensual, not a sexual,drug. People on the drug also have mild feelings of restlessness, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, loss of appetite, sweating, hot flashes, tremor and ''goose bumps.'' This array of physical effects and behaviors produced by MDMA is remarkably similar across mammalian species.
The common after-effects can be pronounced, and may last 24 hours, or even longer. The most dramatic ''hangover'' effect is a sometimes severe feeling of depression and listlessness. Users of MDMA can experience lethargy,anorexia, decreased motivation, sleepiness, depressed mood and fatigue. There are sometimes more severe after effects. These include changes in thinking, convulsions, deregulated temperature control, changes in blood pressure, a racing heart rate, kidney failure, and even death.
There are numerous case reports of a single dose of MDMA precipitating severe psychiatric illness. MDMA does induce a range of depressive symptoms and anxiety in some individuals, and for that reason, people with depression and anxiety should be specifically cautioned about the dangers of using MDMA. Many of these reports represent single cases and there are often other potential explanations for these occurrences. Still, the growing number of such adverse events is cause for concern.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mechanism of Action
MDMA is a ''dirty drug,'' because it affects a number of neurotransmitter systems, in particular, serotonin and dopamine containing neurons. MDMA's primary mechanism of action is as an indirect serotonergic agonist. After being ingested, MDMA is taken up by the serotonin cell through an active channel where it causes the release of stored serotonin. The drug also blocks re-uptake of this neurotransmitter, contributing to its length of action. (It also inhibits further synthesis, but this effect probably does not contribute to the intoxicating effects. It may however, contribute to sustained feelings of depression reported by some users, and the diminished magnitude of subjective effects if the next dose is taken within a few days of the first.) The drug's effects and side effects including anorexia,psychomotor agitation, difficulty in achieving orgasm, and profound feelings of empathy, can all be explained as results of the flooding of the serotonin system.
Unlike other substances of abuse, where to escalating dosage and frequency are common, people who use MDMA on a regular basis tend not increase dosage as time goes on. Because the drug depletes serotonin stores and in hibitssynthesis of new serotonin, subsequent doses produce a diminished''high,''and a worsening of the drug's undesirable effects. Many users, who are at first enamored with the drug, eventually lose interest, usually citing the substantial side effects. It is rare, although certainly possible, to find someone who uses the drug very often (more than once perweek) over the course of years. There is an adage on college campuses about Ecstasy that captures this phenomenon: ''freshmen love it, sophomores like it, juniors are ambivalent, and seniors are afraid of it.'' Those who do continue to use the drug over longer periods of time usually tend to use the drug only periodically. It is therefore reserved for ''special occasions.'' Many young people report ''saving'' their ecstasy use for special occasions, especially for important raves, or parties.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the early and mid 1990s, there was a rash of deaths associated with the use of MDMA. These deaths mostly occurred at raves and appear to be similar to certain features of both the ''Serotonin Syndrome'' and the Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome. The Serotonin Syndrome is a clinical phenomenon that occurs with an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin and is characterized by confusion, restlessness, increased temperature, sweating,increased reflexes, diarrhea, and muscle twitches. The Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) is more often associated with the use of anti-psychotic medicine (dopamine blockers) and dehydration, and its symptoms consist of confusion, increased temperature, elevated levels of muscle enzymes, and autonomic dysfunction. Both syndromes exist on aspectrum of severity, but in their most severe form they are life threatening, and may lead to death.
Raves are often held in hot, crowded conditions. Some clubs turned off their water supplies in an effort to maximize profits by selling bottled water. The hot, crowded conditions, physical exertion, and subsequent dehydration, combined with the drug effects, contributed to the deaths.After these incidents, the English government mandated an open water supply at all clubs; deaths of this kind appear to have since diminished, though they do still occur. In recent years, one of the principal aims of harm reduction efforts, in Europe and the United States, aimed at young people who take the drug, is to remind them that if they are going to take the drug, they must keep well hydrated.
Although rare, there have been anecdotal reports of MDMA causing Post Hallucinogenic Perception Disorder. This disorder is a prolongedre-experience of the perceptual distortion produced during the MDMA ''high.''Post Hallucinogenic Perceptual Disorder is more commonly associated with LSD ingestion, and can last for months, even years. Although symptoms tend to diminish over time, there are no effective treatments for this disorder.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
MDMA and Neurotoxicity
In laboratory animals, the ingestion of MDMA causes a decrease in the serum and spinal fluid levels of serotonin metabolites in a dose-dependent fashion and damages brain serotonin neurons. In non-human primates, then eurotoxic dose approximates the recreational dose taken by humans. Like its close structural relative MDA, MDMA has been found to damage serotonin neurons in all animal species tested to date.
Unequivocal data demonstrating that similar changes occur in the human brain do not yet exist, but the indirect clinical evidence is disconcerting. MDMA users have significantly less serotonin metabolites in their spinal fluid than matched controls. Clear deficits and major neurotoxicity appear to be related to total cumulative dose in animals. In addition, MDMA produces a 3035% drop in serotonin metabolism in humans. It is possible that even one dose of MDMA may cause lasting damage to the serotonin system. Furthermore, such damage might only become apparent with time, or under conditions of stress. Users with no initial complications may manifest problems over time.
There have been reports of individuals with lasting neuro-psychiatric disturbances after MDMA use and it warrants particular caution, because the axonal destruction, though apparent on sophisticated cognitive testing, may not be readily apparent for many years after use. However, there is a growing number of recent studies demonstrating that individuals who currently use ecstasy do have cognitive changes compared to those who have never taken the drug. The use of ecstasy may affect the reserves of the serotonin system by severely diminishing them. As individuals age, they may not have the same level of stores of functional serotonin cells once available. This results in low serotonin levels, which are associated with such serious consequences as depression, violence, and suicide.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The clinical impact of serotonergic damage is not clear, since some animal data suggest that even significant destruction of serotonin neurons leads to little functional impairment. Recent studies in humans, using matched controls of people who have not ever taken MDMA, have demonstrated that the use of the drug does have an impact on memory, and a number of other cognitive functions. The drug's probable neurotoxicity is the most significant concern about its use.
Ketamine, GHB, rohypnol, and others.
Club drugs also consist of a number of other substances of abuse. Among these are Ketamine (''special K''), rohypnol (''roofies'') and GHB gamma-hydroxybutyrate (''liquid Ecstasy''); in Britain, as GBH (''grievous bodily harm''). Ketamine is a disassociative anesthetic, and causes people to appear disconnected from the world. GHB is prized for its ability to relax and cause stimulation at the same time. It is exceedingly easy to overdose from GHB; the intoxicating dose and the lethal dose are quite similar. Rohypnol is a short acting benzodiazepine that is better known as''the date rape drug,'' as it causes short-term memory loss in people who use it, and can be surreptitiously dropped into an unsuspecting victim's drink.
The substances discussed above are used at raves, and at clubs, often in combination, and often by very young people. This is serious cause for concern for several reasons. Among these reasons are that the younger a person begins using drugs, and the more often, the more likely he or she will progress to having a serious drug problem. It is understandable why so many adolescents may find raves, and the club drugs used there, so appealing. Ecstasy, in particular, is alluring and seductive. But as stated above, there is a darker side to this story. It is likely that permanent damage to the serotonin system is occurring in individuals who use Ecstasy and other club drugs. The extent and consequences of this damage may not become apparent for decades.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HUTCHINSON [PRESIDING]. I thank you, Dr. McDowell.
I want to introduce Dr. DesRochers. I know it is difficult to see the light there, but if you could summarize your testimony in about five minutes, that would be helpful, since we do have a number of panel members to hear from today.
STATEMENT OF LAURENCE DESROCHERS, STAFF EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER, TOMS RIVER, NJ
Mr. DESROCHERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee. It is my honor to be here today.
As you may know, there are many drugs that are considered to be club drugs or designer drugs. Those include Ecstasy, GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, and Ephedrine. These drugs have serious effects. Compound this by the fact that they are often made in clandestine labs with no quality control and therefore no account of what a patient may actually be taking. Unfortunately, it is a widely held belief by young Americans that are using these drugs that they are safe.
On Memorial Day weekend of 1999, the weather was great in our coastal resort community in New Jersey. Our weekend population on the barrier islands were at their peak already and it was only the beginning of the season. Over the course of the weekend, however, we received 30 young adults, 15 of which who were critical, from the various nightclubs who had suffered the effects of club drugs. Close to half of these patients were in respiratory arrest requiring mechanical ventilation and admission to our intensive care unit.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
At the time, few of us had ever even heard of GHB, Ecstasy, or club drugs. The hospital and emergency department then, in cooperation with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, began an education campaign. We had sessions for the paramedics, local first aid squads, and the community on the subject. I also was part of a Drug Enforcement Administration lecture series for law enforcement in the State of New Jersey that was met with great success.
Although our efforts have been great, the message is not reaching the victims. Each weekend throughout the summer of 1999 and even on week nights the victims of these drugs continued to come. On June 1, 1999, we experienced our first death from GHB in a 27 year-old man who was found dead at home with a bottle containing GHB at the bedside.
Later in the summer of 1999 we had our first, and so far only, death from Ecstasy. A young woman who reportedly had been taking multiple hits of the drug while on the beach over the course of a couple of days was in a car with her friends. She suddenly got up and ran out of the car stating someone was chasing her. She soon collapsed on the ground. When one of my paramedic units arrived they found her unconscious. She had a seizure, which was controlled with medication, her pulse was racing. However, she quickly began to decompensate, developing respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest. She was rapidly transported to our hospital where on arrival she continued to be in cardiac arrest. She had a temperature in excess of 107 degrees fahrenheit. Despite our efforts, she did not survive.
Just recently this year a 19 year-old female came into the emergency department after becoming unconscious at a local club. On arrival to emergency, she was confused, screaming loudly that she was terrified and did not know what was happening. Her heart was racing, her blood pressure was elevated, and her eyes could not sit still as they darted about the room. About six hours later her heart rate came back to normal, and she stated that someone must have put something in her drink. Her drug screen was positive for Ecstasy.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The difficulty in this case was explaining to the father of the patient how dangerous it has become in the clubs. Intentionally ingesting the drugs for a high is difficult enough, but when innocent victims are involved, it makes the story more tragic. Had it not been for the friends of this victim, the potential for rape, abduction, and assault by another is very high.
One of the areas where the kids get their information on the drugs are multiple sites on the internet. They describe what they call the drug's ''good'' effects. For example, one site states ''Ecstasy is one of the least toxic of these. The stuff does something to your nerves. Feeling and touching things becomes the awesome experience. Soft objects feel very different. Other people are also a nice experience. You feel like hugging them all the time.'' And finally, Ecstasy is a substance that reveals ''the inner-nature of human beings. That we all have a core of love and beauty that we can tap into.'' There are countless other websites with claims from people of how Ecstasy has changed their lives for the better, how they cannot get enough of the feelings they experience with the use of the drug. These chat rooms and newsgroups continue to be the propaganda machine in this battle.
I represent many different groups today, from physicians, nurses, paramedics, but must important, the patients and families who are experiencing the serious consequences of these drugs. Our community is not alone. There are many others with the same problem we have. I hope my experiences and those of my colleagues are helpful. As a physician, and a parent, I urge you, the Members of Congress, to do whatever you can, be it education or stiffer criminal penalties to help us keep youth of America safe from these dangerous, deadly drugs. Thank you.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
[The prepared statement of Dr. DesRochers follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF LAURENCE DESROCHERS, STAFF EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER, TOMS RIVER, NJ
Dear Members of the Judiciary Committee,
I am a staff emergency physician at Community Medical Center in Toms River, New Jersey, and the Medical Director for the hospital's extensive Mobile Intensive Care Unit Program. I am entering my fifth year of employment at this facility. In these roles I have experienced first hand the seriousness of ''club drugs''. I hope that today I may play a role in educating you on this issue.
As you may know, there are many drugs that are considered to be club drugs or designer drugs. Here are a few that have been seen where I practice:
A. The chemical name is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, it is also known on the street as Ecstasy, XTC, Clarity, Essence, Doctor, Dove, Love Dove, Pink Cadillac, Fido Dido, Dennis the Menace, New Yorker and Adam. The drug comes in pill form often in bright colors with logos on the pills like the Mitsubishi symbol, Rolex symbol, Pink Panther, Adidas symbol, butterfly, lighting bolt, and four leaf clover. The retail price is $2030 dollars per hit.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCB. It is ingested as a tablet or capsule, and sometimes is mixed in drinks as a powder.
1. At low doses it causes disinhibition, enhanced pleasure, heightened sexuality, and the sense of touch can be enhanced.
2. At higher doses it causes more of a stimulant effect including anxiety, panic, nausea, loss of appetite, chills, diaphoresis, distorted thoughts, feelings or awareness, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. There can also be teeth grinding, impaired gait or restless legs.
3. With abuse or toxic doses there can be dysrhythmias, hyperthermia, rhabdomyolysis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, confusion, drug craving, seizures, hyperventilation, chest pain and even cardiac arrest.
D. Treatment is supportive therapy. There is no antidote. It is detected on a drug screen as amphetamines.
II. GHB (GAMMA HYDROXY BUTYRATE)
Is a naturally occurring substance found in the body. For this reason was initially sold in health food stores as GBL, which is then converted to GHB in the body. It has been touted as causing muscle growth without exercise. This is not true, but has caused it to be popular among body builders. On the street it is known as Liquid X, Scoop, Georgia Home Boy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Goop, Easy Lay, G-juice and Energy Drink. It is no longer available in health food stores.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
B. It is comes in a powder form and is ingested after being dissolved in water or a drink. There is no residue left behind, but if the water is shaken it may cause some foaming on top.
There are 3 stages of effect.
1. Initial mild euphoria, and disinhibition
2. Drowsiness, which could turn into sleep, confusion, tremors, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
3. Coma, respiratory depression and even death due to hypoxia, and respiratory arrest. There can also be hypotension or bradycardia.
4. The above symptoms are all compounded by the simultaneous use of sedatives, i.e., alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates.
5. There may also be amnesia, which makes it difficult for date rapevictims to remember what happened.
D. Treatment is again supportive and many of these patients require ventilatory support. It is not detected on a standard drug screen but some facilities have a separate test for it.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCIII. KETAMINE
A. Ketamine hydrochloride, used in Emergency Departments, Operating Rooms and in veterinary medicine across the country for anesthesia and sedation. On the street it is known as Special K, Vitamin K, new ecstasy, psychedelic heroine, Ketalar and Super K.
B. It comes as a powder, capsules and liquid form, and is ingested.
1. At lower doses it causes numbness, lack of coordination, hallucinations, out of body experiences, amnesia, and other dissociative symptoms.
2. At higher doses it can cause increased blood pressure, vomiting, delirium, seizures, and even violent behavior. It can also cause a near death state. It alone does not usually cause respiratory arrest, but can and will if combined with other sedatives similar to GHB. This in turn can again lead to respiratory depression, arrest, coma or even death.
D. Treatment is again supportive. It is not detected on a standard drug screen.
A. Rohypnol is the trade name for Flunitrazepam. It is widely available in Europe as a sedative but is not approved by the FDA in the US. It is a benzodiazepene much like valium. However, its hypnotic effects predominate over its sedative, anxiolytic, muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant effects. Its half-life is about 20 hours but its duration of clinical effect is only 13 hours after ingestion. On the street it is known as roofies, ruffies, roach, rope and the forget pill.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
B. The drug can be ingested in pill form or inhaled, or it can be dissolved in alcohol facilitating its use as a date-rape drug.
1. In the short term it may cause memory loss, drowsiness, dizziness, motor incoordination, nausea, slurred speech, headache, low blood pressure, visual disturbances and dry mouth.
2. higher doses can cause irritability, and outbursts of aggression. Blackouts of memory loss can occur, as well as respiratory depression, coma and death. As with GHB and Ketamine its effects are enhanced by the concomitant use of alcohol.
D. Treatment is again supportive. Small frequent doses titrated to the desired effect are preferred to bolus therapy. If Rohypnol is used chronically and then stopped it can produce withdrawal symptoms similar to other benzodiazepines. It will appear on a drug screen up to 4 days after use as a benzodiazepine.
A. This final drug is widely available in health food stores and vitamin supply houses. It is a stimulant that is typically found in diet or energy pills. It is often mixed with caffeine in doses equivalent to 24 cups of coffee. On the street it is known as X, Herbal X, Cloud 9, and Ultimate Xphoria.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCB. This has been available in pill or capsule form and is usually ingested. In the past it was used to treat asthma and nasal decongestion, until better drugs with less side effects came along.
1. At low doses it can cause loss of appetite, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure.
2. Higher doses can produce insomnia, headache dizziness, anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure. When combined with other stimulants like MDMA or caffeine or if taken alone in high doses it can produce hyperthermia, seizures, dysrhythmias, stroke, hypertensive crisis and even death.
D. Treatment is again supportive. The drug will not show up on a standard drug screen.
As you can see these drugs have serious effects. Compound this by the fact that they are often made in clandestine labs with no quality control and therefore no account of what a patient may actually be taking. Unfortunately, it is a widely held belief by young Americans that are using these drugs that they are safe.
As a staff Emergency Department physician, and as the medical director for our paramedic program encompasing 100 paramedics, I have been on the frontline of this siege. On Memorial Day weekend of 1999, the weather was great in our coastal resort community. Our weekend population on the barrier islands were at their peak already, and it was only the beginning of the season. Over the course of the weekend we received 15 young adults from the various nite clubs who had suffered the effects of ''club drugs''. These kids were mixing alcohol, with GHB, alcohol with Ecstasy, and any other combination they could get there hands on. Close to half of these patients were in respiratory arrest requiring mechanical ventilation and admission to our intensive care unit. At the time, few of us had even heard of GHB, Ecstasy or club drugs. The hospital, and Emergency Department then in cooperation with the Ocean County Prosecutors office began an education campaign. We had a session for all the paramedics and local first aid squads. We held community meetings on the subject for teens, parents and anyone else who wanted to know. I then personally was asked to be part of a Drug Enforcement Administration lecture series for law enforcement in New Jersey which was met with great success. We also had a half hour show on the Community Medical Center television show that has run locally a number of times.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Although, our efforts have been great, the message is not reaching the victims. Each weekend throughout the summer and evening on some week nites the victims of these drugs continued to come. Later in the summer of '99 we had our first and so far only death from ecstasy. A young woman who reportedly had been taking multiple hits of the drug, was in a car with friends. She suddenly got up and ran out of the car stating someone was chasing her. She soon collapsed on the ground. When one of my paramedic units arrived they found her unconscious. She then had a seizure. This was followed by respiratory arrest, and then cardiac arrest. On arrival to the hospital she had a temperature of 107F. Despite our efforts she did not survive. We have also seen deaths from GHB.
I can also tell you of countless patients coming to the Emergency department with confusion, feeling like their heart is racing out of there body, and hypertension from the use of ecstasy. Then there are the victims of amnesia from either GHB, Rohypnol or Ketamine whose friends panic when they become unresponsive or confused, and they either drop them at our door and run or the patient simply becomes lost. They later awaken in hour emergency department with no recall of how they got there, who they were with, or what may have happened.
One of the areas where the kids get there information on the drugs are multiple sites on the Internet. They describe the drugs ''good'' effects and how safe they are. These chat rooms and newsgroups continue to be the propaganda machine in this battle.
Our community is not alone. There are many others with the same problem we have. I hope my experiences, and those of my colleagues are helpful. As a physician, and parent, I urge you to do whatever you can to help us keep the youth of the world safe from these dangerous, deadly drugs.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you.
I now call on Ms. Craparotta.
STATEMENT OF ANDREA CRAPAROTTA, INVESTIGATOR, MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Chairman McCollum and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Andrea Craparotta. I am an Investigator with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey.
Over the course of my career, I have been assigned to various units to include sex crimes, homicide, and narcotics. Having worked as an undercover operative in the field of narcotic enforcement for over ten, I have purchased illegal drugs on hundreds of occasions and have participated in thousands of investigations involving county, State, and Federal agencies. During this time, I have witnessed many drug trends develop which involve illegal drugs.
In the summer of 1999, I was part of a team that initiated an undercover operation into the world of club drugs. What I observed was shocking, and many of the images were covertly captured on surveillance tape. Ecstasy is a drug emerging as a favorite among today's youth.
Unlike the well-known dark images of heroine and crack cocaine that the public has become familiar with, many think that Ecstasy is a harmless pill that looks no more ominous than an aspirin. Young adults who would not consider sticking a needle in their arm or smoking from a crack pipe are now popping Ecstasy at an alarming rate. What was once an underground drug only seen at rave parties has now infiltrated our schools, house parties, and night clubs.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
On Memorial weekend in 1999, Ecstasy hit the New Jersey shore with a frightening impact that had not been seen before in these summer communities. The result was an alarming increase in the number of drug overdoses. The Ocean County Narcotic Strike Force reported approximately 30 overdoses associated with club drugs. The following week, an undercover operation was initiated inside these popular night clubs along the Jersey shore. I was one of the undercover officers who for the entire summer spent most Thursday and Saturday nights inside these clubs where Ecstasy was purchased and ingested.
As undercover officers, we would enter these clubs around 10 p.m., mingle with the patrons, and purchase Ecstasy. The scenes within the clubs were bizarre. After sometimes waiting hours in line and spending up to $40 cover charge to enter the establishments, young adults would line up at the bars and pay $5 to $10 on 14 ounce bottles of water. The temperature inside the clubs in the beginning of the evening would be that of a meat locker. Within a short amount of time, the clubs would fill up, young adults would take Ecstasy and begin gyrating oddly with the pulsating techno-music. No one on Ecstasy stood still. Since Ecstasy raised the body's core temperature, the clubs would soon become extremely hot. Patrons consumed large amounts of bottled water and began to strip off their clothes. It was not unusual to see half the young men in these clubs shirtless, and on several occasions women would dance in their bras or bare-chested.
Since Ecstasy heightens one's senses, many patrons would dance with glow sticks often provided by club owners. The rapid movement of the glow sticks and laser lights inside the bar seemed to put the Ecstasy users in a hypnotic trance. It was not uncommon to see glow sticks coiled up and placed inside the mouths of the Ecstasy users so when they talked the inside of their mouths would glow bright neon colors. Young adults sucking on pacifiers and lollipops was also a common sight. They did this to keep from grinding their teeth, which is a side-effect of Ecstasy use. Patrons who would overload their bodies on club drugs would sometimes fall limp at the bar. Young women were often carried out in a semi-conscious state.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Inside the clubs dealers sold Ecstasy for $20 per pill. Most dealers were young adults who had travelled to source cities such as New York and Philadelphia and purchased Ecstasy in mass quantities for $5 to $8 per pill. The typical Ecstasy dealer and user looks like any middle-class, clean-cut, young adult. Most appeared to be in their early to mid-20's. Unlike the thin, pale look of many heroine and crack cocaine users, Ecstasy users were primarily well-built, tan, young adults who had healthy outward appearances. Two of the main suppliers I personally purchased Ecstasy from on several occasions were brothers that lived at home with their parents in an upper-class neighborhood and their father was chief executive officer of a large successful company.
By night's end, Ecstasy transformed the dance floor into a mass of sweaty young bodies moving in a surreal state of endless motion. Patrons who have chosen other club drugs are seen standing around in a trance-like noncommunicative state. On one occasion, a well-dressed young man standing next to me at the bar vomited on the floor and simply stood there in his own vomit either unable to or uninterested in moving. One particularly disturbing incident occurred when a Ocean County female who had been binging on Ecstasy for days voluntarily threw herself out of a moving vehicle. Her body temperature exceeded 107 degrees and she died later at a local hospital.
Thank you for providing me this opportunity to address the subcommittee. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Craparotta follows:]
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENT OF ANDREA CRAPAROTTA, INVESTIGATOR, MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ
Chairman McCollum and members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Andrea Craparotta. I am an investigator with the Middlesex County (New Jersey) Prosecutor's Office. Over the course of my career, I have been assigned to various units to include Sex Crimes, Homicide and Narcotics.
Having worked as an undercover operative in the field of narcotic enforcement for over 10 years, I have purchased illegal drugs on hundreds of occasions and have participated in thousands of investigations involving county, state and federal agencies. During this time I have witnessed many trends develop which involve illegal drugs. In the summer of 1999 I was part of a team that initiated an undercover operation into the world of Rave drugs. What I observed was shocking and many of the images were covertly captured on surveillance tape.
Ecstasy is a drug emerging as a favorite among today's youth. Unlike the well-known dark images of heroin and crack cocaine that the public has become familiar with, many think that Ecstasy is a harmless pill that looks no more ominous than an aspirin. Young adults who would not consider sticking a needle in their arm or smoking from a crack pipe are now popping Ecstasy at an alarming rate. What was once an underground drug only seen at Rave parties has now infiltrated our schools, house parties and nightclubs.
During memorial weekend 1999 Ecstasy hit the New Jersey shore with a frightening impact that had not been seen before in these summer communities. The result was an alarming increase in the number of drug overdoses. The Ocean County Narcotics Strike Force reported approximately 30 overdoses associated with Rave drugs. The following week an undercover operation was initiated inside the popular night clubs along the Jersey shore. I was one of the undercover officers, who, for the entire summer, spent most Thursday and Saturday nights inside the clubs where Ecstasy was purchased and ingested. As undercover officers we would enter these clubs around 10:00 p.m., mingle with the patrons and purchase Ecstasy. The scenes within the clubs were bizarre. After sometimes waiting hours in line and spending up to a $40 cover charge to enter the establishments, young adults would line up at the bars and pay $5 to $10 on 14 ounce bottles of water. The temperature inside the clubs in the beginning of the evening would be that of a meat locker. Within a short amount of time the clubs would fill up, young adults would take Ecstasy and begin gyrating oddly with the pulsating ''Techno'' music. No one on Ecstasy stood still. Since Ecstasy raises the body's core temperature, the clubs would soon become extremely hot. Patrons consumed large amounts of bottled water, and began to strip off their clothes. It was not unusual to see half the young men in the clubs shirtless and on several occasions women would dance in their bras or bare chested. Since Ecstasy heightens one's senses many patrons would dance with glow sticks, often provided by club owners. The rapid movement of the glow sticks and laser lights inside the bar seemed to put the Ecstasy users in a hypnotic trance. It was not uncommon to see glow sticks coiled up and placed inside the mouths of the Ecstasy users so when they talked the inside of their mouths would glow bright neon colors. Young adults sucking on pacifiers and lollypops was also a common sight. They did this to keep from grinding their teeth, which is a side effect of Ecstasy use. Patrons who would overload their bodies on Rave drugs would sometimes fall limp at the bar. Young women were often carried out in a semi-conscious state.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Inside the clubs dealers sold Ecstasy for $20 per pill. Most dealers were young adults who would travel to source cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, and purchase Ecstasy in mass quantities for $5 to $8 per pill. The typical Ecstasy dealer and user look like any middle class, clean cut young adult. Most appeared to be in their early to mid-twenties. Unlike the thin, pale look of many heroin and crack cocaine users, Ecstasy users were primarily well built, tan, young adults who had healthy outward appearances. Two of the main suppliers I personally purchased Ecstasy from on several occasions were brothers that lived at home with their parents in an upper class neighborhood and whose father was chief executive officer of a large, successful company.
By night's end, Ecstasy transforms the dance floor into a mass of sweaty young bodies moving in a surreal state of endless motion. Patrons who have chosen other Rave drugs are seen standing around in a trance-like, non-communicative state. On one occasion a well-dressed young man standing next to me at the bar vomited on the floor and simply stood there in his own vomit, either unable to or uninterested in moving. One particularly disturbing incident occurred when a young Ocean County female who had been bingeing on Ecstasy for days voluntarily threw herself out of a moving vehicle. Her body temperature exceeded 107 degrees when she died later at a local hospital.
I thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the Subcommittee and look forward to answering any questions you may have.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And now Mr. Paez.
STATEMENT OF ELADIO PAEZ, DETECTIVE, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT, MIAMI, FL
Mr. PAEZ. Thank you, distinguished members. Let me first identify what P.L.U.R. is. P.L.U.R. is what the rave subculture hides behind. It stands for peace, love, unity, and respect. Philosophies that good people and many religions identify with. But let's drop the word rave for a minute. Rave is only what crack became to free-base cocaine. Rave is only a name tagged on this movement, which was previously known as underground. A movement that has evolved from a trend to mainstream, seducing a great portion of society and promoting the adoption of MDMA, 34 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, as the drug of choice.
The marketing scheme is flagrant and easily detected in their flyers. Flyers are the most popular form of advertising clubs and events. Symbols, letters, terms synonymous with drug use are presented at times in the open, other times in a subliminal fashion.
I refer to the drug of choice as the enforcer because it eventually forces the user to seek refuge in other drugs. As you heard before, Ecstasy effects may last four to six hours. There comes a point in time when the user needs to calm down and rest. They use downers or depressants to achieve that restmarijuana, alcohol, GHB, pharmaceuticals like Zanex and Valium, and even heroin. This urge by the users to calm down is evident when most of the clubs and events advertise and provide a cool-down room or a mist tent where you can actually go and shower and bring down your body temperature. There are other drugs that are also part of the scene and are used in combination with MDMAcocaine, Ketamine, LSD, or anything else that a user may think is going to enhance or prolong the high of Ecstasy.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The greatest obstacle that we face is misinformation and a small section of the media that chooses to be irresponsible in how they present information to the public. A recent article in the June 5th edition of Time Magazine cited a 1953 U.S. Army secret study of eight drugs, including MDMA. According to this report, MDMA was not found to be toxic. They added: ''It would take a dose of [E] something like 14 of today's purest pills ingested at once to kill you.'' Gentlemen, I will show you otherwise.
According to another article that came out a short time ago in USA Today on April 19th, the executive director of the FOP stated, ''What would you think a cop would rather be doing, chasing a guy who just put a gun in a clerk's ear at a store or arresting a kid who was using a drug that does not promote violence.'' We have a 22 year-old promoter serving time in South Florida because he placed a bomb at a club to get the people to go to his club which was down the street. The violence that surrounds this issue is immense.
Another retired detective stated in that same article, ''If you bust a party, then you send 800 kids or more on drugs on the road. At a rave, they go there, they do their drugs, they pass out, they sleep it off, and then they go home.'' If it is true that she made this statement, she has never heard of Samatha Reed. Samatha Reed was a young girl that died and never woke up. We have a young woman in South Florida that was dead for eight hours at a party before her friends realized that she was dead.
Promoters and club owners thrive on these sentiments. They go as far as hiring police officers as security at these events, creating a false sense of security for those unsuspecting parents that drive and drop off their teenagers at the non-alcoholic events. This is an alarming problem that we are facing and we cannot allow the fact that uninformed law enforcement is aiding these events and are standing guard outside these events while go kids go inside and do drugs.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Paez, I understand you have a video.
Mr. PAEZ. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. If you could go ahead and present that and explain it.
Mr. PAEZ. This basically is what you see at a rave event. This particular event was half empty yet the majority of the people here are involved in using one drug or another. I mentioned that the Ecstasy drug was the enforcer and made people other drugs, those who use it.
These events are also a haven for sexual predators. They engage in hugging, kissing, caressing each other, massaging themselves. There comes a point in time when they need to come down from that. They may take other drugs, like Ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol. They may lose consciousness. That person that was previously involved in hugging and kissing will no longer be able to make a decision whether they want to have sex or not. That is why it is a haven for sexual predators.
This is basically what you see. There is no dancing. This is not just a teenager event. This one is what we can call a rave. As you are going to see, there are other events. This is a popular activity because Ecstasy makes your large muscles, especially the back muscles constrict and they ache. They stretch their muscles, they massage themselves, they engage in sexual activity many times. And they constantly aid their hallucinations with glow sticks or other toys.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This is an event that is not a teenager event; a much older crowd but you see the same type of activity. They are hallucinating. The other subject in the back is giving this person a massage. And this is what they engage in when they are under the effects of Ecstasy.
Vomiting. As I mentioned, they will do anything that promotes or would enhance the effect. Some kids think that if they induce vomiting when they are coming down from the pill it is going to prolong the high.
This is the same day, one overdose after the other. Same type of activity, again a much older crowd. A cool down room where you go and chill out. This is not just a rave event. This has made it to mainstream and this is what you see in many places. We were talking earlier about Florida. Florida is very attractive to tourists and there are a lot of clubs in the South Florida area.
This is an event where they are not playing techno-music, they are playing hip-hop. The problem is not dancing or having a good time or partying. They problem is drug use. Although you hear different music in the background, they still have the same type of activityhallucinations, aiding their hallucinations with the glow sticks, massaging themselves, caressing themselves.
Logos on the pills. They have identified over a thousand logos on these pills.
This is an overdose of Ecstasy. You see the young man putting his fingers in his mouth to negate the urge of chewing his lips and tongue. He had to be handcuffed to a stretcher while he waited for fire rescue, and he waited for fire rescue because at that particular event there were over 14 overdoses. He cannot control his movement, he was incoherent, and by the time he made it to JMH his core temperature was 109 degrees. He died two days later.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Paez follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ELADIO PAEZ, DETECTIVE, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT, MIAMI, FL
I've been a law enforcement officer for the past 19 years, 16 out of which I've worked in a specialized section of the Miami Police Department, among others with a great deal of experience. Many times, in an undercover capacity, I posed as a drug trafficker or smuggler in filtrating organizations and learning in the process, their behaviors and ways of thinking. I learned that there are numerous operatives in the drug trade that are as successful in remaining undetected, as I am in deceiving them. This made me a suspicious person, a true virtue when someone is blessed with teenagers. Several years ago, I began to wonder what was cool about a teenager sporting a baby pacifier around his neck, before long I was listening to their music, and watching ''MTV.'' I realized that more and younger kids were using drugs than ever before. Events that were opening drug markets, were taking place right under our noses and no one was doing anything about it. I initiated proactive operations within my department that have served to educate others and to bring this problem light. The following is a summary of what I have learned while working under cover within the so-called Rave Subculture.
When your mind has become opened after truly accepting peace, only then can you know the true meaning and feeling of love. After that, unity can be achieved through mutual respect for everyone and everything around you.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This is what the rave subculture hides behind. Philosophies that good people and many religions identify with. But let's drop the word rave, rave is only what crack became to free-base cocaine. Rave is only a name taggedon this movement, which was previously known as underground. A movement that has evolved from a trend to mainstream, seducing a great portion of society and promoting the adoption of MDMA, Ecstasy, 3-4 Mehylenedioxymethamphetamine, as the drug of choice.
The marketing scheme is flagrant and easily detected in their flyers, the most popular form of advertising clubs and events. These advertisements are found littering college grounds, high schools, and parking lots; many teenage collect them and use them to decorate their rooms. The flyers are financed and provided by promoters to teenagers whom they recruit to distribute them. In exchange the young entrepreneur receives money, fringe benefits such as VIP passes and sometimes drugs to be sold at the events. These kids also call themselves promoters, and become very loyal to their Boss. These gatherings are externally lucrative and it's not unlikely for a promoter to clear, one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) in one night;water bottle sales alone can yield more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00). The competition is vicious, and they stop at nothing in order to ensure a successful event. These flyers are expensive to produce, they are multicolored with elaborate graphics, and many display symbols,letters, and terms synonymous with drugs or drug use, presented in the openor in a subliminal fashion. These events are named, even when they take place at a club that already has one. They choose names such as GENERATION, LIFE, EVOLUTION, ENERGY, and coincidentally the E's are enhance done way or the other, they also use many forms of X and or XO's, representing HUGS & KISSES a street name for their drug of choice, ''the love drug.''
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I refer to this drug of choice as the enforcer, because it eventually forces the user to seek refuge in other drugs. The effects of MDMA may last 4 to 6 hours; there comes a point in time when the user needs and wants to rest. They use downers to achieve that rest, Marijuana, GHB,pharmaceuticals like Xanax, Valium and eventually, Heroin. This urge by users to come down is evident when most of the clubs or events provide and advertise a cool down room or a mist tent. There are other drugs that are also part of the scene and are used in combination with MDMA. Cocaine,Ketamine LSD, or anything else that the user thinks will enhance or prolong the ecstasy high. Mixing drugs is part of the scene, and to this we can attribute overdoses, rapes, and deaths. Date rape is a common term among our youth, and many incidents are never reported. Most likely it is that same quest for a euphoric feeling with no inhibitions, culpable of numerous rape incidents. Persons under the influence of ecstasy, who engages in the usual activity of touching, massaging, and caressing each other, may find themselves at risk. At a later time during the event they may take downers in order to neutralize the high and loose consciousness, no longer being able to make a decision whether they want to have sex or not.
The lawlessness of events and open drug den atmosphere are true impediments to the efforts of diverting youth away from drug use. Contrary to inaccurate statements that our Nation's prisons are full of first time offenders and non-violent drug addicts, quite frankly, there is very little deterrence to drug use. Demand reduction must be backed by enforcement,obviously smashing an egg on a frying pan and stating ''this is your brain on drugs'' has not worked. On one hand our kids are told to ''Just say NO,''on the other, a small but influential segment of the media and entertainment industries bombards them with messages promoting and glorifying drug use along with it's illicit business.
One of the greatest obstacles we face is misinformation. A resent article in the June 5th, 2000 edition of the TIME magazine cited a 1953 U.S. Army founded secret University of Michigan animal study of 8 drugs, including MDMA. According to the article, the study found that none of the compounds under review were particularly toxicadding, ''It would take a big dose of e, something like 14 of today's purest pills ingested at once, to kill you.'' There are countless episodes of deaths caused by much less amounts of MDMA. In June of 1998 an 18-year-old young man died after taking a total of5 pills during the course of the night at a Pre-Zen festival in down town Miami. According to an article titled ''Feds crack down on ecstasy'' in the USA Today newspaper on April 19th, 2000 James Pasco, executive director of the fraternal order of police stated, ''what would a cop rather be doing,chasing a guy who just put a gun in a clerk's ear at the store or arresting a kid who is using a drug that doesn't promote violence?'' Trinka Porrata, are tired Los Angeles narcotics detective stated, ''If you bust a party, then you're sending 800 kids on drugs on the road.'' ''At a real rave they go there, they do their drugs, they pass out, they sleep it off and then they go home. '' Although someone under the effects of MDMA would probably not fight anyone, the violence that surrounds this scene is immense. In the past year a 21-year-old promoter was found guilty of placing a pipe bomb at a South Beach club in order to lure more attendees to his event nearby. Trinka Porrata must not have heard of Samantha Reed, if is true that she made such a statement, sixteen year old Samantha never woke up after her friends spiked her soft drink at a party, since her death GHB became a schedule 1 drug like MDMA and Heroin. In South Florida an 18-year-old girl was dead for eight hours at a party before her friends realized she had passed away as a result of an overdose.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Promoters and club owners thrive on misinformation. They go as far as hiring law enforcement officers to stand guard outside these events,creating a false sense of security for many unsuspecting parents that drive and drop-off their teenagers at the ''non-alcoholic dance event. '' We are faced with a devastating problem of epidemic proportion. I have seen kids as young as 12 year olds at some events, these are havens for sexual predators that enjoy the chemically induced lack of inhibitions and lovey-dovey atmosphere
We can no longer tag this problem with a low priority, ignore it, or hope that it will fadeout like pokemon cards. We cannot allow these events to take place without deterring drug use and much less we cannot allow misinformed law enforcement to stand guard outside open drug dens.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Paez, for that graphic description of this problem.
Now I recognize Dr. Caulkins.
STATEMENT OF JONATHAN P. CAULKINS, DIRECTOR OF RAND'S PITTSBURGH OFFICE, DRUG POLICY RESEARCH CENTER, PITTSBURGH, PA
Mr. CAULKINS. Thank you for this chance to testify. I want to state at the outset that I am not an expert specifically on Ecstasy, but I have been studying drug policy for about 12 years and for the last 5 have been part of a group of people who have been working on the question of how the mix of drug control strategies should vary over the course of a drug epidemic. And what I mean by a drug epidemic is a cycle of varying levels of drug use.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It starts off with drug use relatively low, then rises rapidly through a period of exponential or contagious spread to some plateau, from which it gradually ebbs to an endemic level that may or may not be much larger than the original level. And the premise of this line of research is that it might be useful to alter the mix of control tactics over the course of this epidemic, in somewhat the same way that the Federal Reserve alters interest rates in response to its perception of where we are in a business cycle.
The nature of the research is a combination of historical case study, economic reasoning, and mathematical modeling. For obvious reasons, it is not possible to run controlled laboratory experiments of how a societal drug epidemic plays out and how best to control it. So the findings need to be taken with the usual grain of salt that should accompany social science research as opposed to physical science research.
With that caveat mentioned, the central finding, or a central finding, is that anything that you can do to diffuse or delay or dampen the exponential or contagious spread of the use during that rapid growth period can be extremely valuable, perhaps not surprisingly. And for a variety of reasons, enforcement is particularly useful for trying to interrupt that contagious spread, even though it can suffer a problem of diminishing returns when trying to control a large market that is already well-established.
So if you believe that a drug is the sort of drug that is susceptible to this sort of explosive growth, and you believe that you are at the cusp of such an epidemic, then it might make sense to try to increase enforcement's attention to that particular drug. But not all types of increases in enforcement are equally effective at disrupting this contagious spread.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In my written testimony, I try to consider the twin questions of whether we are now at the cusp of an explosive, contagious epidemic spread of Ecstasy use, and if so, whether or not lengthening the mandatory minimum sentences for Ecstasy is likely to be an efficient way to focus more enforcement effort on this contagious spread. In short, my answers are, I am not sure, and, no, respectively.
That is, in my written testimony I am able to describe the recipe for a virulent epidemic of drug use, but I have to remain agnostic as to whether or not we are about to experience such an epidemic for Ecstasy, both because there is conflicting evidence and, as I mentioned, I am not specifically an expert on Ecstasy.
I am pessimistic though that long mandatory minimum sentences are an efficient form of enforcement for intervention in the possible contagious growth for several reasons. The first is that I led a fairly careful study of mandatory minimum sentences' ability to control the cocaine epidemic, which concluded that the mandatory minimum sentences are less cost-effective than conventional enforcement and sentencing, for all but a very select group of the highest level drug dealers. I brought copies of the research brief on that study, if they might be of interest.
A second reason is that if the goal is to focus the intervention at this point in time, a time that might be a particularly critical phase, then giving a very long sentence does not really make sense. You would rather take five people off the street now and incarcerate them for, say, two years than remove one person and incarcerate that person for ten if the objective is to focus the impact of the intervention at this particularly critical time.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
A third reason is that traditionally the long mandatory minimum sentences have been keyed substantially to the quantity possessed. But quantity possessed is, at best, an imperfect indicator of the importance of the defendant.
And a fourth reason is the familiar observation that the fifth year of a sentence has less deterrent power than the first year for people with relatively short time horizons, and it is plausible that particularly the youth involved in this subculture may be relatively present oriented.
I would be happy to elaborate any of those points in the question and answer session. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Caulkins and referenced materials follow:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JONATHAN P. CAULKINS, DIRECTOR OF RAND'S PITTSBURGH OFFICE, DRUG POLICY RESEARCH CENTER, PITTSBURGH, PA
The question has arisen as to whether this is a good time to direct additional law enforcement effort at XTC. Or, might other interventions, such as treatment and prevention, be better alternatives? One constructive way to approach this question is by stepping back and asking, for what types of drugs and at what point in an epidemic of drug use is law enforcement likely to be the preferred intervention? Then one can ask whether XTC is likely to fit that description.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Levels and patterns of drug use rise and fall over time in modest ways as do all sorts of phenomena, but drug use patterns can also change explosively. In particular, drug epidemics can begin with low rates of use being replaced by exponential growth up to some plateau, from which drug use gradually declines. In such a dynamic situation, it makes sense for the mix of policy interventions to vary over time as well, sometimes in a relatively rapid fashion.
The recipe for a ''worst case'' epidemic has the following ingredients. The substance initially has a benign reputation and is perceived to be hip or cool. First use is appealing (not an ''acquired taste'') and most users are happy with the drug's effects during some honeymoon period, but over time some proportion of users suffer substantial ill effects, in the form of addiction (as with heroin), chronic health effects (as with cigarettes), a mixture, or something else. If the proportion who suffer ill effects is very high, the drug will acquire a negative reputation fairly quickly. If the proportion is very low, few people will suffer harm. In intermediate ranges, the absolute number of individuals harmed can be large, but they still will not represent the modal outcome. That allows naively optimistic potential users to convince themselves that ''it won't happen to me.''
In terms of market conditions, the worst case is a drug that rapidly moves from unavailable to widely available. If the drug has always been available, then older birth cohorts will have already been exposed to the drug. Some will have used. Some will not have. But they are not susceptible to rapid initiation because most who might consider using the drug have already opted in or out. If the drug was physically unavailable to older birth cohorts, then they can add fuel to the exponential spread of the drug the same way that dead wood accumulating in a forest that is not burned by natural fires can fuel a particularly intense fire when one finally does start.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
On the other hand, if the availability grows slowly over time, then initially only the most determined or the best-connected potential users will have a chance to start. Their drug use will play out its effects over time before less well-connected individuals have a chance to start. That lets the less connected individuals witness the end of the ''honeymoon period'' of relatively happy use and onset of problematic use for some of their colleagues before they themselves decide whether to take a chance by trying the drug.
For a drug, population, and market with these characteristics, it is easy to create a positive feedback loop such that some initiation begets more initiation, and drug use sweeps through the population of ''susceptibles''. Kleiman (1992) gives an articulate qualitative description of this process, which is captured more formally by models such as Behrens et al. (1999, 2000). The key mechanism, though, is reputational. As long as the number of initiates is increasing, most users will have been using for a relatively short period of time and, hence, be in their honeymoon period. That perpetuates the illusion that the drug is safe, inducing still more people to try the drug. The exponential growth is only broken when users begin to manifest obvious problems with the drug or the pool of individuals susceptible to drug use is tapped out.
Unfortunately, cocaine in the US in the 1970s had exactly these characteristics, and initiation grew by more than a factor of ten during the 1970s. In the 1980s when the dangers of addiction became more obvious, rates of initiation fell, but by then a large number of people had tried the drug and roughly one-sixth went on to have serious problems with it.
What might the US have done to avert or at least mitigate its cocaine epidemic? School-based drug prevention programs have been shown in controlled studies to have an effect on initiation into drug use (see, e.g., Ellickson et al. and Botvin et al., 1995). However, the median age of cocaine initiation in the US was 21.5, and the typical school-based drug prevention program is run with 13 or 14 year olds, so prevention is most effective when done about eight years before the rapid increase in initiation. For the US cocaine epidemic, that meant the late 1960s and early 1970s. That lag is problematic because we did not realize we were suffering from a serious cocaine epidemic until the 1980s. Even if we are quicker to recognize an epidemic in the future, there is still little one can do about part of the lag. School-based drug prevention may be cost-effective (cf., Caulkins et al., 1999), but it is not an efficient way to focus control on an immediate need. It is also not like a vaccine. Even a cutting edge prevention program cannot ''inoculate'' against drug. Most of those who receive a prevention program who would have used in the absence of the program will still use even if they do receive a cutting edge prevention program.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Other forms of prevention (such as mass media campaigns) have a shorter lag, or none at all if they are directed not only at teens forming their opinions but also at young adults contemplating trying the drug drug. However, the evidence concerning their efficacy is thin at best.
Treatment is likewise not an effective way of diffusing the epidemic spread of initiation when most people are in the honeymoon period specifically because those who have not yet become dependent and who are not manifesting negative consequences of use do not want or need treatment. It is even conceivable that during the explosive spread stage, helping those who are suffering from drug use could reduce the apparent dangers of the drug, watering down the drug's negative reputation, and, thereby, removing a potential brake on the spread of initiation. (Such perverse effects are unlikely later in the epidemic and, at any rate, are purely speculative.)
Enforcement, in contrast, has the capacity to focus its effects in the present, to respond specifically, and to be drug-specific. Had we directed more enforcement effort at cocaine in the late 1970s, instead of concentrating on heroin and marijuana, it is conceivable that such effort might have slowed the exponential growth through one or more of several mechanisms.
The ideal outcome of enforcement is that the substance becomes physically unavailable. If a set of users or potential users has only one point of supply and that supplier is incarcerated, the users might be physically unable to obtain the drug. The same basic principle applies if the users could identify an alternative supplier, but only at some nontrivial cost (in terms of effort) or risk (whether of being defrauded or arrested). This decoupling of consumers from the ultimate source of supply is most feasible when the market is ''thin'' in the sense that there are few alternative suppliers. It would be exceedingly difficult to achieve for cocaine in most parts of the US today when the typical user may know 10 or 15 alternative suppliers (Riley, 1997). Early in a drug epidemic, before the markets are as well established, it may be more feasible.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The second possible beneficial outcome of enforcement is that the risks of sanctions induce suppliers to demand substantial monetary compensation for incurring those risks associated with distributing the drugs. There is good evidence that higher prices suppresses use and perhaps even initiation (Chaloupka and Pacula, forthcoming). This so-called ''risks and prices'' mechanism has been examined by a variety of quantitative models (e.g., Rydell and Everingham, 1994). A consistent finding is that once the market is large, ''enforcement swamping'' (Kleiman, 1993) makes it very expensive to raise the risk per kilogram delivered enough to greatly increase the price per kilogram or per gram. There is not compelling empirical evidence that enforcement is any more effective at driving up prices of drugs which have a smaller market, but economic logic suggests that it may well be so.
A third possible mechanism by which increased enforcement might deter or slow initiation is the direct threat of sanction against users. If users are under-estimating the health risks of the drug, e.g., because most of the users they observe are in the honeymoon phase, then creating a criminal justice risk might serve as a useful surrogate to keep potential users from taking foolish risks. In theory, one could even view this as the government compensating for an information failure (ignorance of the long-term health risks of drug use) with a tangible action when its words alone are not credible (e.g., because it cried wolf once too often over the risks of other substances).
Of course if few potential users are deterred and many users suffer severe criminal sanctions, over zealous enforcement against users can make them worse not better off. But enforcement approaches that maximize deterrence relative to sanction (e.g., by focusing on certain rather than severe sanctions) may, particularly at that point in the epidemic, help reduce the aggregate harm suffered by users.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Given this preamble, it is instructive to return to the case of XTC. Do XTC, the XTC markets, and the current population fit the characteristics of a drug that is about to undergo exponential spread of use that will, with the passage of some time, manifest substantial ill effects on users?
First consider the question of how harmful or dangerous XTC use is. There are certainly reasons for concern. XTC appears capable of permanently altering the brain. It operates directly on a key component of the brain's pleasure control system (serotonin). And some users reports very down days after their highs in a manner that is reminiscent of the crash that follows a cocaine high.
On the other hand, the levels of mortality and morbidity associated with XTC are not extremely high. Furthermore, some perhaps substantial proportion of the adverse drug reactions associated with XTC may actually be attributable to adulterants, and the most common scenario leading to death is dehydration and heat exhaustionan outcome that could plausibly be addressed through a ''harm reduction'' or ''safe use'' public health campaign analogous to campaigns against drunk driving.
At this point I remain agnostic on the issue of how dangerous XTC is. It is clearly not ''safe'' or risk free. But that's not the key question. The question is whether the proportion of those who try XTC who suffer long term harm will be of the same order of magnitude as with, say, cocaine or heroin, and whether those harms are of that magnitude. Or will XTC look more like marijuana or even like caffeine? One can argue, however, that caution is the preferred approach. If XTC is restricted for ten more years and turns out to be not terribly dangerous the costs of that error is less than the cost of not trying to restrict it and finding out ten years later that it is just as dangerous as cocaine, except that the honeymoon period is longer (and, hence, more deceiving).
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Second, is there evidence that any increase in XTC use in the US fits the pattern of explosive and exponential growth, as opposed to being just a change in tastes or popularity over time that has no substantial self-reinforcing feedback? Again, I must remain agnostic. To paraphrase Mark Kleiman in another context, ''The conditions are right for explosive growth. We have no hard evidence of such an explosion in use, but our indicator systems are such that the absence of such evidence is not completely reassuring.'' (BOTEC, 1992)
The conditions are right in the sense that XTC is not widely viewed as a hard or dangerous drug, many first-time users enjoy the drug's effects, it is associated with youth subculture, and that subculture is believed by some at least to be a trend-setting subculture. On the other hand, XTC is not new in general or in the rave scene. It has been part of US culture for a number of years, and has a deeper and longer-lasting presence in Europe. It is not obvious why it will explode now if it hasn't in the past. There are plausible stories for such a delayed spread, pertaining, e.g., to availability or to greater awareness of the drug spread by the internet. But another explanation is that the media have created the illusion of a rapid escalation of use If so, the quickest way to solve this drug scare might be to stop paying attention to it so there is no longer an incentive to drum up media ratings or sales with scare stories about this latest drug threat.
If, however, one did not want to rule out XTC having substantial delayed health risks and one believed that its use was spreading explosively, it might be a very appropriate time to direct greater enforcement resources toward XTC. There are several forms those additional efforts could take that might well be useful, such as: (1) Increasing the number of DEA agents who are trying to disrupt smuggling of XTC into the country, (2) Expanding prosecutorial resources to support such efforts and do a better job of discriminating among truly important vs. lesser defendants, and (3) Creating sanctions for users that are swift, certain, and not overly draconian (so that they will be applied).
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The form of expanded law enforcement that is least likely to be useful is the one the US has turned to most often in similar situations in the pastextending sentences. Long drug sentences have generally been found to be inefficient at controlling drugs, not only relative to treatment but also relative to other forms of law enforcement (Caulkins et al., 1997). There are many reasons for this, but one of the obvious ones is that the people who get involved in drug markets are not always very far sighted, so the difference between being locked up for five years or six years occurs so far in their future that carries little marginal deterrent power. Another is that the sentence length has often been keyed to quantity possessed, which is an unreliable indicator of the importance of the defendant. A courier or mule who is easily replaced may be arrested while in possession of large quantities. But locking such a person up for ten years accomplishes less than locking up his or her boss for one.
More to the point, however, if the goal is to disrupt the epidemic spread by focusing the intervention at this point in time, one would rather incapacitate five people for the next two years than one person for the next ten. The goal should be to disrupt the operation of large numbers of traffickers now, not to remove a smaller number for a longer period of time.
So does that mean that mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea for XTC at this point? Not necessarily literally but yes in practice. Literally having some minimum mandatory sentence is not necessarily a bad idea. Too often convicted drug defendants are simply put on probation, which is neither an effective sanction nor control in jurisdictions where probation officers' case loads are very high. To avoid this problem, many states have mandatory two-day jail sentences for first time DUI offenders and mandatory 210 day sentences for second time offenders.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
What is problematic with most mandatory drug sentences proposed as a response to an emerging drug threat is, besides their being keyed to quantity possessed, that the minimum sentences are much too long. Mandatory minimum drug sentences of five or ten years are too long to be cost-effective for all but a very select group of very high-level cocaine traffickers (Caulkins et al., 1997). (By way of comparison, the average time served for homicide in the US is about six years.)
Being able to threaten defendants with massive sanctions as a way of inducing cooperation is very appealing to law enforcement. In theory if the very long sentences are never actually used, they can be an efficient tool for prosecutors. However, even leaving issues of constitutionality and civil rights aside, for they are not within my area of expertise, past history is not encouraging. The long sentences are in fact given not just threatened, and there is some evidence that the ability to avoid long sentences by turning state's evidence can ever work perversely (Schulhofer, ). Regardless, it would be cheaper for taxpayers to greatly expand prosecutorial budgets than to make the existing prosecutors more effective by giving them mandatory minimum sentences as a tool. Buying prosecutorial efficiency at the expense of expanded prison populations is penny-wise and pound foolish given the relative costs of adjudication and incarceration.
In summary, if one believed that XTC is likely to turn out to be a very harmful drug (more like cocaine than marijuana in the toll it takes on the average user) and one believed that we are at the brink of an XTC epidemictwo statements about which I am agnosticthen it might make sense to direct more law enforcement effort at XTC. However, even in that case, it still would not make sense for that additional law enforcement effort to take the form of mandatory minimum sentences of the sort we have for cocaine and heroin at the federal level.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF PHILLIP JENKINS, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
Mr. JENKINS. Mr. Chairman, not for the first time in my life I speak as a dissenting voice. I intend no disrespect either to the subcommittee nor to the other witnesses when I say that there are alternative ways of looking at the evidence presented about Ecstasy's effects. I am not for a second advocating legalizing the substance. It is a pharmaceutical, it requires medical supervision. But I suggest that many or most of the worst problems associated with Ecstasy result from problems not with the drug itself, but rather with its current status under the law. If that is true, then adding new legal restrictions is almost certain to make the situation worse, not better.
I propose that our emphasis should be on harm reduction, not further repression, and still less in opening a new front in the drug war. And partly I base what I have to say here on the experience of Europe and Canada where Ecstasy use has much deeper roots, where there are a great many more studies, and we do not just have a year or two of experience, we now have basically 12 to 15 years of experience.
Let me begin with the issue of deaths and direct harm caused by Ecstasy. I am nervous about the concept of Ecstasy-related deaths. Figures for drug-related deaths tend to be very inaccurate. What that normally means is that a death has occurred and a drug has been found in the system of the person. And I am not trying to make up a deliberately absurd example when I say that if somebody has been murdered and has a drug within their system, then that is listed as a death related to that particular drug, which most of us would regard as absurd.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Some of the other problems arise from the drug's illegal status. For instance, we have heard about the question of adulterants like methamphetamine, PCP, strychnine, all of which are very much more harmful than Ecstasy itself. The reason those find their way into Ecstasy pills in the clubs is that there are no controls and manufacturers can get away with putting in whatever garbage they want, with many risks to young people.
Also the question of polydrug use, many of the so-called Ecstasy-related deaths involve people who have taken heroin, cocaine, alcohol and Ecstasy and death or serious injury does not seem to me a surprising fact. But it seems surprising, to say the least, to describe that as an Ecstasy-related death.
Many of the deaths reportedly connected with Ecstasy arise from environmental conditions. There is no doubt that Ecstasy raises body temperature, causes dehydration. There are relatively straightforward solutions to that involved in adequate supplies of water, involved in ventilation. If you look at the recent experience in the city of Toronto where they had a reported wave of ecstasy-related deaths, these were the policies recommended as opposed to banning raves. In fact, the conclusion in the Toronto experience was that banning raves is actually likely to cause more harm than good.
I would like to see a situation where raves operate legally and above ground under proper regulation so that promoters are required to supply proper ventilation and water supplies. The fact that they do not is a result of the illegal nature of the proceedings under current law. Without regulation, promoters play cynical tricks like shutting off all water supplies thus forcing customers to purchase over-priced bottled water, which not everyone can afford. Injury and death are natural consequences. Worse, people are more reluctant to report emergencies to police or paramedics when they have occurred in such an illegal setting.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
If we want more deaths stemming from the use of club drugs, then the way to do that is straightforward. We should increase penalties, initiate more active policing, and drive the club scene further underground. I would recommend that we should look more at the concept of harm reduction as opposed to trying to squeeze ever more people into our already vastly overcrowded prison systems.
I also look here at the issue of the relationship between violence and the drug. The analogy I would choose is Al Capone. Gin and whiskey as substances did not create Al Capone, the fact that they were criminalized created a demand which somebody like Al Capone could come in and fill. Alcohol prohibition in the 1920's I think offers a good number of important lessons for tactics of prohibition today and the dangers of prohibition. I mentioned the idea of adulterants with Ecstasy, and it is very much like the idea of bathtub gin in the 1920's.
In summary, I suggest, with all respect to this committee, that recent activism over club drugs in the mass media and in discussion betrays many of the familiar signs of a new drug scare. Legislators are naturally, commendably concerned about the need to protect young people; what better use could they make of their powers? The danger is that in trying to offer better safeguards for youth they will enact new prohibitions, criminal justice oriented policies which will result in causing more harm, more injury, and, I am afraid to say, more deaths.
I am obviously not asking the committee to take anything I say on trust. I just ask that all claims about this or any other new drug problem should be treated with the utmost care and critical reading. On further analysis, I think that you will find many such claims are less than meets the eye. Thank you very much.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
[The prepared statement of Dr. Jenkins follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PHILLIP JENKINS, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
I should begin by explaining why I claim to be able to speak about a topic of this kind, seeing as I have no formal training either in medicine, chemistry or pharmacology. I have however spent many years applying historical and social scientific methods to the study of social problems in the US. Over the last decade, I have published books on topics like serial murder (USING MURDER, 1992), child abuse (MORAL PANIC, 1998), and cults (MYSTICS AND MESSIAHS, 2000). My major scholarly interest throughout is in seeking to understand the social reaction to issues, basically how things come to be seen as problems demanding an official response. Historical perspective is particularly important here, because it allows us to benefit from studying the mistakes of the past. I stress that my basic approach to panics and the construction of problems is not something quirky which I invited myself: rather, it is a mainstream idea in contemporary sociology and criminology, where it is known by the name ''social constructionism.''
Sometimes, the reaction to issues is massively out of proportion to the phenomenon at hand, and in those cases, social scientists use the term ''moral panic.'' In such instances, people are reacting less to the matter at hand (say, a particular drug) than to its cultural or social associations. People may latch on to a particular issue because it is an acceptable way of attacking some perceived threat that cannot be addressed openly. The panic might thus conceal tensions over age, race or gender. In addition, panics might be exploited by bureaucratic agencies who stand to gain new resources on the strength of public fears. Moral panics are socially damaging because they divert resources from more serious dangers, and also because they can result in over-sweeping laws which threaten to ruin the lives of countless relatively harmless individuals.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Often, scares and exaggerated fears arise over drugs. In my 1999 book SYNTHETIC PANICS (New York University Press), I described some of the ways of recognizing when a panic is arising, and applying these criteria, I am worried by current claims about the drug MDMA or Ecstasy. Though the substance has been around a long time (since 1912, in fact), within the last few years we have heard a series of far reaching claims about the effects of Ecstasy use, particularly in the rave scene. I want to argue that the current wave of concern, which seems to be peaking right now, looks like becoming a classic moral panic, based on exaggerated fears and misused evidence.
I am absolutely not making a plea for MDMA to be legalized, in the sense off freely available on the streets: like most pharmaceuticals, it can easily cause harm in the wrong hands, and medical supervision is appropriate and necessary. Having said this, I will suggest alternative ways of looking at the evidence presented about the drug's effects, and ask whether most or all of the problems reportedly caused by Ecstasy result from problems with the drug itself, or rather with its current status under the law. If the latter, then adding new legal restrictions is almost certain to make the situation worse, not better. I propose that our emphasis should be on harm-reduction, not further repression, and still less in opening a newfront in the drug war.
I divide this statement into six sections:
1. HOW DID MDMA/ECSTASY COME TO BE CRIMINALIZED?
2. ESTASY AND PROZAC
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
3. HOW HARMFUL IS ECSTASY?
4. IS MDMA DANGEROUS BECAUSE IT IS ILLEGAL?
5. THE SIGNS OF A NEW DRUG PANIC
6. CLUB DRUGS AND RACIAL PANICS
1. HOW DID ECSTASY COME TO BE CRIMINALIZED?
Ecstasy is more properly known as MDMA (3, 4, Methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine), and as its name suggests, it is yet another derivative of the amphetamine family. It is not obvious why the substance should be illegal. In my book SYNTHETIC PANICS, I suggested that this was a relatively harmless and probably beneficial substance which happened to come to public attention at a uniquely unfortunate time, namely in the mid-1980s. At this time, people were obsessed with the dangers of crack cocaine, and had very little tolerance for any drugs associated with pleasure. Moreover, another recent wave of horrible stories in the mass media told of the deadly effects of so-called ''designer drugs,'' laboratory made chemicals which at their worst could kill or paralyze users. ''Designer drug'' made people think of names like PCP, MPTP, and Fentanyl. Though MDMA has nothing whatever to do with these substances, it suffered from a kind of guilt by association.
MDMA was originally synthesized in 1912 by the Merck corporation, and was rediscovered by Alexander Shulgin in 1965. Shulgin remarked that ''it was not a psychedelic in the visual or interpretive sense, but the lightness and warmth of the psychedelic was present and quite remarkable:'' in fact, the drug has some chemical relationship to mescaline and its derivatives.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Open experimentation with human subjects revived in the early 1970s, and from about 1976, largely under Shulgin's advocacy, the drug was increasingly used by therapists, who found it valuable in creating a psychologically safe environment in which patients could explore traumatic feelings or memories. In essence, it offered the advantages of the hallucinogens without the potential loss of control, and the resulting catastrophe of a bad trip. To quote novelist Douglas Rushkoff, ''You get the insight without the pain. You see how things are but, unlike with acid, the knowledge doesn't spin you into the drug's control. The only way to have a bad E trip is to be afraid to look. You can't shut down the process.''Shulgin himself comments that ''MDMA allows you to be totally in control, while getting a really good look at yourself. . . it does away with . . . the fear barrier, the fear people have of seeing what's going on inside them, who they are.'' It was ''penicillin for the soul, and you don't give up penicillin, once you've seen what it can do.'' MDMA now played a central role in what was termed the neuroconsciousness movement. One psychologist ''spent his time training people, mostly therapists, in the use of MDMA. He's introduced several thousands of them across the country to this drug, teaching them how to use it properly, for themselves and their patients.'' Under the nickname ADAM, the drug gained an enthusiastic following among spiritual seekers and New Agers, who explored the analogies between these chemically induced states and the mystical conditions described by the traditional religions. MDMA thus had a respectable following, and its use in controlled and discreet settings meant that it was unlikely to attract attention from law enforcement agencies. Through such means, perhaps half a million doses of the drug were distributed in a decade.
Matters changed fundamentally during the early 1980s, as the drug acquired a politically damaging reputation for giving pleasure. Entrepreneurial drug-makers in Texas marketed the chemical as a party-drug, choosing the brand-name of Ecstasy, or XTC. It found its way into the upscale party and dance-club scene of Dallas and Austin, where Ecstasy was sold openly over bar counters as a yuppie psychedelic, and it was a smash success in clubs in New York and Chicago. The media reported that the drug was gaining popularity at an alarming rate, and it was portrayed as the new drug of choice for the young and affluent. Of course, the more sensational the press reports, the better the advertising for the drug, as would-be yuppies across the nation asked themselves what pleasures they were missing. Many users were apparently attracted to MDMA as a safe alternative to cocaine, which was then attracting such awful publicity following tales of severe addiction and celebrity deaths. At this time, MDMA was not subject to the increasingly severe criminal penalties prescribed for cocaine and Quaaludes.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the atmosphere of the burgeoning drug war, Ecstasy was condemned as much by its name as by its cultural connotations. As a therapeutic aid, MDMA had most of the positive features and few of the drawbacks of other commonly used drugs of the 1970s and 1980s, but the name Ecstasy suggested a link with the discredited cultures of the 1970s: we might ask whether it would have aroused official outrage if it had been given its first intended name, of Empathy, or even retained its nickname of Adam. Further, the drug was attacked following studies purporting to show that it caused brain damage, and the media presented a familiar series of scares about the drug threatening to ravage the entire nation. The DEA undertook an emergency reclassification of the drug, placing it in the prohibitive Schedule I, on a par with heroin, and thus in an even more restrictive category than cocaine or morphine. The scheduling decision was immediately attacked, and contentious administrative law hearings followed during early 1985. The federal judge who initially reviewed the evidence recommended placing the drug in the permissive schedule III, permitting use through medical prescription, and many medical experts and therapists were prepared to testify about the drug's positive properties. The times were however wrong for such an enlightened approach, and the emergency scheduling decision was confirmed in July. The absolute suppression of Ecstasy in the mid-1980 sepitomizes the anti-drug movement at its worst, using panic over-reaction to combat a questionable menace, at the cost of potential gains in medical research. Ecstasy was condemned on such slight evidence because it was labeled as a designer drug. The parallels between Ecstasy, fentanyl, and MPTP were slim indeed, and all they really had in common was that all were basically laboratory products used to produce some kind of chemical high, but in the fevered atmosphere of mid-1980s anti-drug politics, all were equally blameworthy. ''PCP, Ecstasy and fentanyl'' were indiscriminately bracketed together in discussions of the new menace.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC2. ECSTASY AND PROZAC
That the boundary between licit and illicit drugs depends upon their symbolic associations was indicated yet again in exactly the years that ecstasy was under such devastating assault. At just this time, another designer drug with somewhat similar effects was beginning a brilliantly successful career as a universal panacea, and consequently, a commercial triumph. In 1987, following the approved range of official trials, the lilly corporation marketed its anti-depressant Prozac, which like Ecstasy, alters an individual's mood by manipulating levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. Both drugs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, thereby raising levels of that chemical in the brain: this has the effect of making users calmer and more confident, and Prozac offered much the same range of wonder-drug accomplishments which had recently been claimed for MDMA. And like Ecstasy, Prozac's effects on some lives were so profound as to lead users to describe it as the foundation of a new spirituality. By the mid-nineties, Prozac was being prescribed to an estimated twenty million users worldwide, with five million regular consumers in the US ALONE, and annual sales hit $4 billion by 2000. The drug's usage swelled through a kind of bracket creep, as the conditions it was intended to treat expanded steadily, from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder to panic disorders, premenstrual tension, chronic back-pain and, in short, to any personal malaise. As with Ecstasy, or indeed any effective medication, Prozac had its downsidesee now Joseph Glenmullen's book PROZAC BACKLASH. Users might experience nausea, diarrhea or sexual dysfunction, and must take great care to avoid a potentially fatal combination with some other drugs, like MAO-Inhibitors. Controversial claims were also made from the drug's earliest days about its possible links with violent behavior, charges of a sort which, incidentally, were never made against MDMA. Lilly came under pressure in the early 1990s to warn users of possible outbreaks of suicidal behavior, and the company was sued by individuals who claimed that their violent acts were Prozac-inspired. Particularly bad publicity followed incidents in which mass killers were found to have used Prozac shortly before committing their crimes: in one such case in 1989, a Louisville man who had used the drug killed eight people in a murder rampage, and in 1998,a teenage Prozac user carried out a high school shooting spree in Oregon. Partly because of the feared side-effects, some advanced countries have shied away from Prozac, preferring instead herbal-based remedies like St. John's Wort. In response, defenders of Prozac note that excessive claims about side-effects are inevitable in a society as litigious as the contemporary US, and the drug's precise effects remain open to debate: the prozac Defense has consistently failed in American courts. On the other hand, if effects of this sort were only alleged against an illicit drug, with however weak a foundation, we can be certain that they would be trumpeted widely and uncritically, and would justify ferocious measures of suppression. And analogies to illicit drugs can be extended further. Prozac's defenders argue, fairly, that just because an individual has been using a particular drug does not necessarily imply that it directly caused a given act of violence, and that the violence might well have occurred regardless of the drug usagea position which could equally well be extended to users of illegal drugs like methamphetamine or PCP.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Prozac is a worthwhile pharmaceutical breakthrough, which has caused much good in many lives. Even so, the question arises whether anything more than chance explains why this drug went on to glory, while Ecstasy found itself in the company of chemical outlaws like fentanyl and MPTP. The main reason was that one drug arose through approved corporate channels, while the other did not. We can only imagine how Prozac would be regarded if the drug had been popularized through unofficial networks of therapists, and had developed a reputation among non-specialists for its pleasurable effects. Still worse, what if it had attracted a playful nickname like Feel good? It would assuredly have been classified alongside Ecstasy and the other prohibited designer drugs.
3. HOW HARMFUL IS ECSTASY?
All drugs and medicines can have harmful or fatal effects, including perfectly legal medications which are properly prescribed by qualified medical personnel. If we look at the substances which account for the largest number of emergency room visits in the US, we might be surprised to find that among the leading substances, alongside heroin and cocaine, are such benevolent items as acetaminophen (Tylenol), diazepam (Valium) and codeine: all are also implicated in deaths.
The scale of such adverse reactions is amazingly high. According to a survey published in JAMA in 1998, perhaps a hundred thousand Americans die each year from the effects of legal synthetic drugs administered in hospitals, and over two million more (seven percent of all hospital patients) suffer non-lethal adverse reactions. Worse, this survey only tracked adverse reactions in hospital settings, and did not include lethal effects which might have occurred at home. The unintentional consequences of legally supplied synthetics amount to perhaps the fourth leading cause of death for Americans. In contrast to the situation with illegal synthetics, medical authorities vastly understate the damage caused by these prescribed drugs, so that only a tiny proportion of these hospital fatalities are recorded as drug-related. In a typical year, only 3,500 such events are reported to the federal government, less than four percent of the total. The disastrous consequences of legal drugs are understated quite as thoroughly as those of their illegal counterparts are exaggerated.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
With that perspective, the charges against Ecstasy are amazingly limited, nothing like as extreme as those directed, for instance, against Prozac. In assessing the claims made for ''Ecstasy-related deaths,'' we need to be very cautious about several issues:
a. Had the deceased individual really been using Ecstasy, pure MDMA, or a pill adulterated with some other more lethal chemical? We have to know this before we can determine that the particular drug caused death or other psychiatric disturbance. Because Ecstasy is illegal, its quality is not controlled, and people adulterate it with all sorts of harmful chemicals, including methamphetamine, PCP, DXM and other substances. If these cause harm, we should not blame the Ecstasy with which they were packaged.
b. If a deceased individual shows traces of Ecstasy in his/her system, is here any causal link to injury or death? To put it at its most absurd, if a person is killed by a drunk driver, and happens to show traces of Ecstasy in the bloodstream, that is not by any reasonable standard an ''Ecstasy-related death.'' This raises the critical and often intractable question of what exactly is meant by a death ''related to'' this or any drug. Ideally, this phrase should be applied to an event in which a death was directly caused by the substance, but this guideline is not always followed. Instead, the term ''Ecstasy-related death'' is being employed to describe any suspicious or violent death in which the drug is subsequently found in the victim's system, so that the question of causation is elided. If we find nicotine in the system of a deceased individual, we do not automatically classify that as a cigarette-related fatality.
c. Did the person in question die of the direct effects of the drug, or of incidental environmental factors? In the case of Ecstasy, it is well known that the substance raises body temperature and causes dehydration. There is no mystery about how to deal with this: one simply ensures access to adequate water, and proper ventilation. If death results from dehydration or hyperthermia, then it is proper to blame the group or individual responsible for establishing an unhealthy setting, but not the substance as such.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
d. If someone is said to have died from the effects of the drug Ecstasy, is there evidence of multi-drug use? If someone has been using heroin, cocaine, alcohol and Ecstasy (not an impossible combination), and thendies, it is absolutely impermissible to attribute the death to the one drug. In a recent wave of supposedly MDMA-related deaths in Toronto, Canada, it proved on further examination that most incidents resulted from such multiple drug combinations.
e. Does a supposed rise in the reported number of ''Ecstasy related deaths'' reflect no more than the increased awareness of the drug by police and medical examiners?
4. IS MDMA DANGEROUS BECAUSE IT IS ILLEGAL?
It will be obvious from the preceding section that I am very skeptical about claims for ''Ecstasy related deaths.'' Drugs that become illegal are indeed more dangerous than their legal counterparts, a point that will need no explanation for anyone familiar with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.Whisky and gin, taken in moderate quantities, do not kill, but the adulterated garbage consumed by desperate Americans in the 1920s did indeed kill and blind people, because of the lack of regulation: you could hardly complain to the Food and Drug Administration about an illegal product. The dreadful bathtub gin of that era was a direct consequence of the illegal status of the substance. Ditto for Al Capone and his like: alcohol did not CAUSE such figures; rather, they were permitted to arise and flourish solely and entirely because alcohol was illegal. If people want something and are forbidden by law from getting it, then illicit supply networks will arise: it is irrational to blame the ''something'' itself for that fact.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the case of Ecstasy, I would like to see a situation where raves operated legally and above ground, under proper regulation, so that promoters were required to supply proper ventilation and water supplies. The fact they don't is a result of the illegal nature of the proceedings under current law. Without regulation, promoters play cynical tricks likes hutting off all water supplies, thereby forcing customers to purchase overpriced bottled water, which not everyone can afford in adequate quantities. Injury and death are natural consequences. Worse, people are more reluctant to report emergencies to police when they have occurred in such an illegal setting. If you want more deaths stemming from the use of club drugs, then increase penalties, initiate more active policing, and drive the club scene further underground. We should concentrate on tactics of harm reduction, and not trying to squeeze ever more people into out already vastly overcrowded prison systems.
5. THE SIGNS OF A NEW DRUG PANIC
In SYNTHETIC PANICS, I tried to suggest the signs of a rising drug panic, and it seems to me that all are being precisely met by the claims now being made about Ecstasy. I list some of the main themes which arise in the media and public discourse:
Law Enforcement Experts Claim
The first question must involve the source from which claims arise. By definition, agencies whose primary mission is the control or suppression of illegal drugs have a vested interest in portraying those substances as threatening and ubiquitous. The whole raisondtre of anti-drug agencies depends on finding and combating drug abuse, preferably with a regular infusion of issues which are sufficiently new and distinctive to grab the attention of media and political leaders, who face many rival demands for resources. Any statement from such a body must be taken with that agenda in mind. From the nature of bureaucracies, no agency is ever likely to present Congress with a statement asserting that the illegal drug menace is under control or largely defeated, as this would invite either being dismantled or suffering a large reduction of resources.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
An English statesman once bemoaned the self-serving nature of expert advice: ''If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome. If you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent. If you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe'' And as he might have added, if you believe the drug warriors, the nation is always either suffering from a drug epidemic, or about to face anew one. When approaching such claims, it is always helpful to bear in mind the question, Cui bono? Who benefits?
The Serial Killer of Drugs
A presentation intended for a mass audience will frame the new problem through the use of threatening metaphors and other rhetorical devices. Rape drugs, the serial killer of drugs, drug users as zombies, the crack of the nineties: all are wonderful grabbers for media stories, but in what sense, if any, do these phrases correspond with literal reality? A little historical perspective permits us to see a term like ''the new drug of choice'' as the empty cliché it is.
The concept of epidemic is an example of such a metaphor, however often it seems to be employed in an objective medical or scientific sense. In fact, the term begs several key questions, not least the harmful effects of the substance concerned. To speak of an epidemic of drug X automatically assumes that the substance is a health menace comparable to an infectious disease. Medical analogies ipso facto presume that the subject under discussion is pathological, and this impression is reinforced by the use of pseudo-medical language.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And the word epidemic poses other difficulties. In western society, the most familiar epidemic of recent times is the AIDS outbreak which began in the early 1980s, and in the aftermath of this experience, to speak of a drug epidemic suggests that the behavior observed is likewise a brand new phenomenon which has seemingly come from nowhere. Claims of a drug epidemic are often made without adequate evidence that the behavior in question has really grown: if we do not know accurately how many people were using a drug ten years ago, and we do not know how many are using it today, then no accurate statement can be made concerning growth or decline of usage.
To speak of an epidemic further assumes that growth in drug usage can be measured accurately, on the model familiar from infectious diseases, but in reality, usage itself is effectively invisible. All we can measure is behavior which is either reported or observed, and it is difficult to extrapolate from that to judge the actual scale of the drug phenomenon. Because illegal drug use is a private behavior which can attract severe sanctions, its scale cannot be determined by the usual means devised to judge the popularity of a television program or a type of margarine. That statement may seem obvious, but its implications are easily ignored when we confront claims about the alleged popularity of a given drug. People often fail to respond accurately to surveys, and that difficulty is all the greater when dealing with illegal conduct, so that agencies must resort to techniques of extrapolation that are controversial at best, ludicrous at worst. Estimates of (say) the number of habitual cocaine users in the United States at any given time in the mid-1990s were variously put at 582,000 and 2.2 million, and in fact one government report presented both these wildly divergent figures within a few pages of each other.
Drug usage can be quantified in terms of persons arrested, amounts of drugs seized, or numbers of laboratories raided but in all these cases, what we are measuring is the intensity of official reaction and not necessarily the changing volume of drug usage. If a state believes that it has a problem with drug X, then its police forces will go looking for it, prosecutors are more likely to press charges concerning it, and medical examiners tend to look keenly for its role in violent incidents: all the leading indicators will therefore soar, regardless of whether actual usage is rising or falling. Furthermore, a society that grows less tolerant of drugs will have more arrests and seizures, so that higher statistics for official action may in fact coincide with declining drug usage, as occurred nation wide during the late 1980s.In short, more Ecstasy arrests or seizures do not necessarily say anything about actual usage.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
More Addictive Than Crack Cocaine
No less than epidemic, other standard terms in the law enforcement lexicon concerning drugs are deceptive in suggesting an objective scientific quality: in fact, they are malleable and unreliable, and owe more to rhetoric than to objective science. ''Designer drugs'' itself is such a phrase, as are ''hard'' and ''soft'' drugs. In the case of designer drugs, the term is used to cover both potent substances like fentanyl and far milder ones like Ecstasy, both of which were subjected to equal official stigma.
Addiction is another of these flexible words. As long ago as 1946, the famous medical writer Paul De Kruif denounced the Federal Bureau of narcotics' tendency to conclude that a given drug was addictive or damaging based only on anecdotal evidence, on ''the unscientific, uncontrolled reports that flow into the files of governmental bureaus dabbling in science.'' Matters have changed little in the last half-century, and most of the science remains mere dabbling. Police forces and drug enforcement agencies like to use scientific-sounding rhetoric concerning drugs, but we should never forget that these statements are political documents, which wouldn't conceivably pass muster if reviewed by neutral medical or social scientific observers. As used by politicians and law enforcement agencies today, a drug ''addict'' often becomes synonymous with a user, or even with a person who has had only one or two contacts with the substance in question, and is not addicted by any medical criterion. Whenever claims are made that a given substance is severely addictive, it is crucial to ask how addiction being defined. The nature and severity of chemical dependency is subject to great debate among professionals, and any claim that a substance produces addiction after a single use should be viewed skeptically: such a claim is so bizarre and improbable that it should raise doubts about any other statements made by the same source.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Over the last decade, too, highly questionable charges about the nature of addiction have been made in the context of possible effects on babies born to drug users, the infamous crack-baby phenomenon and its later imitators.As in the case of instant addiction, stories of babies born addicted to any given substance should be treated with great scepticism, especially when all possible pathologies and symptoms suffered by the child are attributed to the influence of that drug.
Are we seeing the same sort of distortion with reports of Ecstasy? I quotefrom a recent TIME magazine article (June 5, 2000): '' 'It appears that the ecstasy problem will eclipse the crack-cocaine problem we experienced in the late 1980s,' a cop told the RICHMOND TIMEDISPATCH. In April, 60 MINUTES II prominently featured an Orlando, Fla., detective dolorously noting that 'Ecstasy is no different from crack, heroin.'' I quote Yogi Berra: it's deja vu all over again.
I reiterate this point, because it is so central. One yardstick used to substantiate the seriousness of a drug problem involves the number of deaths associated with a given substance. As a rhetorical tactic, this is an obvious means both of attracting public attention, and of contradicting the view that drugs are a harmless individual vice. But what is a drug-related death? In a particular case, can any given death plausibly be shown to result from the usage of the drug itself, as opposed to (say) conflicts between traffickers? The fact that an individual died while showing traces of a drug in his or her body does not of itself establish causation. The notion of a drug-related death is not implausible in itself, as alcohol, heroin, nicotine and other drugs can certainly cause or contribute to fatalities, but this does not mean that claims about the volume of damage should be accepted without further evaluation.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Claims-makers illustrate the harmful nature of a given phenomenon by giving it a human face, providing case-studies of individuals whose lives were devastated by a particular drug. These stories have to be used with caution, especially if, as so often, they concern desperate users in treatment programs, implying that this self-selected sample is representative of every individual who has ever tried the drug. Such accounts fail to acknowledge that users in such programs are often thereunder court mandate as an alternative to lengthy prison terms, so they have a powerful incentive to present the starkest possible contrast between their previous drug abuse and their recent progress towards sobriety. The drug users whose lives we can observe are not necessarily representative of non-addicted consumers, and we must beware what Craig Reinarman and Harry Levine term ''the routinization of caricatureworst cases framed as typical cases, the episodic rhetorically recrafted into the epidemic.'' The use of illegal drugs can ruin lives, but often, the harm arises less from qualities intrinsic to the drug itself than from its legal consequences. So much for most of the horror stories surfacing about Ecstasy.
6. CLUB DRUGS AND RACIAL PANICS
Drug prohibitions often represent the restatement of threatened ethnic boundaries, an assertion of the outer boundaries of ''us-ness.'' Substances are condemned because of their symbolic association with a particular ethnic or racial group, and striking at the substance in question is a means of stigmatizing that particular group. David Musto's classic account argues that ''American concern with narcotics is more than a medical or legal problemit is in the fullest sense a political problem. The energy that has given impetus to drug control and prohibition came from profound tensions among socioeconomic groups, ethnic minorities and generations. . . .
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The most passionate support for legal prohibition of narcotics has been associated with fear of a given drug's effect on a specific minority. . . . The occasion for legal prohibition of drugs for non-medical purposes appears to come at a time of social crisis between the drug-linked group and the rest of American society.''Historical examples are not hard to find. Joseph Gusfield's classic study symbolic CRUSADE (1963) explained the Temperance movement in nineteenth-century America in terms of underlying conflicts between old-established elite groups, who were mainly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, and newer catholic populations, who were German and Irish. As Catholics viewed alcohol consumption more tolerantly than did Protestants, temperance laws became a symbolic means of reasserting WASP power and values. Other writers have suggested ethnic agendas for the campaign to prohibit opium in the1880s (part of an anti-Chinese movement) and marijuana in the 1930s(stigmatizing a drug associated with African-Americans and Mexicans).
Repeatedly, African-Americans have been the primary targets of such movements, whether the drug in question was cocaine in the progressive era, heroin in mid-century, or crack in the 1980s. During the drug war which got under way in the 1980s, the crack cocaine favored by black users attracted savage penalties in terms of huge mandatory sentences for dealing and possession, sanctions not similarly inflicted upon the (mainly white) users of the drug in powdered form. Often, the rhetorical portrayal of a particular drug draws upon the most vicious stereotypes of the racial category with which it is associated. Cocaine was feared in the early twentieth century because it supposedly drove users to savage violence and wild sexual abandon, exactly the kind of primitive jungle characteristics which were so fundamental to racist caricature. In 1914, at the height of the first national cocaine panic, an article in the LITERARY DIGEST alleged that ''most of the attacks upon white women of the South are a direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain.''
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Time and again, anti-drug campaigns warn that such appalling behaviors will cross over into the American mainstream, a barely veiled threat that whites will be infected by the most reprehensible characteristics attributed to blacks. In some periods, such racist alarms are raised quite overtly, as when anti-marijuana activists of the 1930s and 1940s warned of the dangers facing white middle-class youngsters who dabbled in the drug, and there by risked falling prey to jungle savagery themselves. Acute sexual dangers were said to face white girls who abandoned all inhibitions in the marijuana parlors. These fears recurred during the heroin boom of the1960s, as whites adopted the argot of the black drug subculture, and crossover notions formed part of the indictment of PCP in the following decade.
From the mid-1980s, drug policy was dominated by the fear of a next crack cocaine, of a new chemical which could make white people fall prey to the problems which traditionally characterize blacks and Hispanics. In this scenario, ''inner-city conditions''namely, the problems afflicting minoritiescould be visited upon ''nice kids'' in the suburbs, and the havoc wrought by drugs will reach the heartland, those rural and overwhelmingly white states of the West and Midwest. The racial codes are transparent. In recent years, methamphetamine has played the primary rolein such rhetoric, as the latest drug ''invading the heartland.'' In 1996, the television news show 48 HOURS depicted a speed recovery group in Arizona, which was introduced with the line that ''these people could be your neighbors, your friends, even your family,'' presumably referring to the fact that all were white and Anglo, in contrast to the minority drug abusers who had become so familiar a media stereotype in the preceding decade. The new drug was viewed, ominously, as a ''red neck cocaine.''
I fear we are seeing a rerun of the same thing with Ecstasy and the club drugs. Throughout media coverage, we hear repeatedly that those most at risk from the new drug culture were the young and white. The exposure of young teens to synthetics was the theme of a TIME magazine article in late1997, which asked, in characteristically hair-raising manner, ''Is Your Kidon K?,'' that is, ketamine The following report interviewed youngsters of fifteen and sixteen who were enthusiastic about the drug, and the magazine reported that ''K has exploded in the past few months onto the suburban drugscene.'' Some months later, ABC's 20/20 covered teen raves, which appealed to youngsters aged from ten to eighteen. Despite their youth, all those interviewed claimed easy access to a panoply of drugs which included ecstasy and Ketamine. These programs offered viewers a portrait of illegal drug use radically different from the stereotypes of a decade previously, as users and dealers depicted were white or Hispanic, and their social settings ranged from respectable lower-middle class to the very prosperous.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the words of a 20/20 report on illicit Rohypnol use in a Florida suburb, the teenagers involved lived ''amidst neat lawns, clean streets and comfortable homes.'' As TIME declared, ''a hot new high hits Main Street,''and users were ''suburban,'' that is, white.
In summary, I suggest, with all respect to this committee and to the other witnesses, that recent activism over club drugs in the mass media and in political discussion betrays all the familiar signs of a new drug panic. Legislators are naturally and commendably concerned about the need to protect young peoplewhat better use could they make of their powers? But the danger is that in trying to offer better safeguards for youth, they will enact new prohibitions and criminal justice-oriented policies which will result in causing more harm, more injury and death.
I am not asking the committee to take anything I say on trust. I just ask that all claims about this, or any, new drug problem, should be treated with the utmost care and critical reading. On further analysis, I think you will find that many such claims offer far less than meets the eye.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, panelists. We have a vote on at the present time. We are going to go ahead and start some questions and see how far we get.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. I will defer to the gentleman from New Jersey. He has some questions that he was anxious to get in.
Mr. ROTHMAN. This has been a tremendously enlightening presentation. Does anyone on the panel think that use of this drug by children is a good thing, or acceptable? Dr. Jenkins, you do not think that?
Mr. JENKINS. I believe that the fewer drugs and pharmaceuticals that children and young people use, the better.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Right. I agree.
With regards to drug education awareness, I just attended a DARE graduation in New Jersey, a drug education program. I have got to tell you, I took Ms. Craparotta's, and not just because you are a New Jersey person, your testimony to give to my children. They are going to be 12 and 9. I may not give it to the nine year-old. How early should one present these things to children? For example, they are starting to go out to boy and girl parties, not that I am thrilled about that, and you warn them about the punch bowl, that this stuff is going to be in the punch bowl.
Mr. MCDOWELL. The raves, I sort of started my academic career going to these things, and there were 12 year-olds there.
Mr. ROTHMAN. So it is not too soon.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCDOWELL. Start early, yes.
Mr. ROTHMAN. I asked the two gentlemen before, are the basic ingredients in Ecstasy, for example, if you can call them mood elevators, are they prescribed to adults or even children?
Mr. MCDOWELL. There is one medicine that is similar, phenfloramine, but there are some essential differences. This medicine works differently than almost anything else. Some scientist put it in a separate category called an inactagent. What it does is one takes the drug and it causes the sort of immediate release of all stored serotonin and then stops its re-uptake. So you get a flood of serotonin in your system and all the effects thereof. Now prosaic is the thing that works on serotonin, many of the antidepressants do, it is just that this sort of does it with a bang.
Mr. ROTHMAN. And the driving under the influence thing, is that, in the experience of those who have been involved with this, is that an issue?
Mr. DESROCHERS. Definitely. This impairs your judgement, your reflexes just as alcohol. Any of these club drugs that we have been talking about certainly will do that.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you very much. Forgive me, I am going to go for the vote. This has been excellent. Thank you.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me just interrupt for a couple of questions. I yield myself a little bit of time here.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Following up on the gentlemen's question, these drugs cannot be prescribed for any legitimate medical purpose?
Mr. MCDOWELL. No, they are Schedule I drugs, meaning that it is deemed to have no therapeutic benefit and great potential for abuse. So it is not prescribable.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so the very existence of these drugs is illegal in the clubs. Madam, you testified, and your testimony was very compelling, the people you went in and bought these drugs from, are these in every club? Are there a number of dealers? Did you make arrests on these? What happened to these?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Yes. We were provided by confidential sources prior to initiating this investigation with some names and photos of some known targets, some known suppliers within the clubs. So we would utilize informants. And if our informant pool dried up, it was simply going in and looking around and asking around. It is a very friendly crowd and there was never really a lack of dealers in there. And, yes, we did effectuate arrests when it was over.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Were they prosecuted? Did they get a tough enough penalty?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Most of them I believe pled out, so that it never went to trial.
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. These low level dealers?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Yes, mid-level dealers for clubs.
Mr. SCOTT. What penalty did they get?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Most of them got probation, especially if they were first time arrests.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Were they there to sell the drugs, or were they there to participate and just doing it to raise a little bit of money for their own habit?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. I believe that most of the dealers were also users.
Mr. SCOTT. If the young kids were to get a five year mandatory minimum, would you have prosecuted them?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. I am not an attorney, but
Mr. SCOTT. Would they have been prosecuted? You do it for crack cocaine, mostly with minority children. Would you have done that with middle-class kids, given them five years mandatory minimum to college kids?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. It depends if it is a first time arrest. There are different levels.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HUTCHINSON. These are State prosecutions that you are referring to?
Ms. CRAPAROTTA. Yes, I am referring to State.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. We are going to have to go vote. I think because of the hour I want to go ahead and conclude this hearing. This has been extraordinarily helpful to this subcommittee as we address this. Thank you for your participation in this hearing and for your work in this area.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, I would appreciate it if we could submit questions or have additional comments for the record, keep the record open for those comments.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. The record will be open for any questions for two weeks.
[Whereupon, at 12:17 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC66177a.eps