Drugs of Abuse

DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration

Clandestine Labs

Drugs of abuse in the United States come from a variety of sources. Heroin and cocaine, for example, are produced in foreign countries and smuggled into the United States. Marijuana is cultivated domestically or smuggled from foreign sources. Legitimate pharmaceuticals are diverted to the illicit market. Continuing efforts on the part of state and federal governments to reduce the amount of dangerous and illicit drugs available for abuse, combined with the demand for psychoactive substances, have contributed to the proliferation of clandestine laboratories.

Clandestine laboratories are illicit operations consisting of chemicals and equipment necessary to manufacture controlled substances. The types and numbers of laboratories seized, to a large degree, reflect regional and national trends in the types and amounts of illicit substances that are being manufactured, trafficked and abused. Clandestine laboratories have been found in remote locations like mountain cabins and rural farms. Laboratories are also being operated in single and multifamily residences in urban and suburban neighborhoods where their toxic and explosive fumes can pose a significant threat to the health and safety of local residents.

The production of some substances, such as methamphetamine , PCP. MDMA and methcathinone, requires little sophisticated equipment or knowledge of chemistry; the synthesis of other drugs, such as fentanyl and LSD, requires much higher levels of expertise and equipment. Some clandestine laboratory operators have little or no training in chemistry and follow underground recipes; others employ chemistry students or professionals as "cooks."

The clandestine production of all drugs is dependent on the availability of essential raw materials. The distribution, sale, import and export of certain chemicals which are important to the manufacture of common illicitly produced substances have been regulated since the enactment of the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988. Enforcement of this and similar state laws has had a significant impact on the availability of chemicals to the clandestine laboratory.

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