DEALogo DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Briefing Book

Dangerous Drugs

DEA Statement


The DEA uses the term "dangerous drugs" to refer to broad categories or classes of controlled substances other than cocaine, opiates, and cannabis products. The list of dangerous drugs includes illicitly manufactured, as well as legitimate pharmaceutical stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and narcotics. It is notable that the DEA does not include either alcohol or tobacco in their term "dangerous drugs", even though these two drugs are responsible for at least fifty times as many deaths as their "dangerous drugs".

Some dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamine, methcathinone, and LSD, are manufactured in clandestine laboratories. In fact, domestic clandestine laboratories produced most of the illicit dangerous drugs available in the United States. Clandestine laboratories come in all sizes, and have been found in a variety of locations, from sophisticated underground hideaways to motel rooms or kitchens, bathrooms, and garages. The most productive laboratories are often located in secluded, rural areas at a safe distance from the metropolitan areas that they serve. Laboratory operators run the gamut from high school dropouts to chemists with doctoral degrees.

These drugs are also manufactured by people who have no guiding force except profit and, as the DEA itself has noted, are as likely to sell to children as to adults.  This was the same situation which was prevalent with alcohol in the 1920s.
Clandestine Lab Seizures  

Other dangerous drugs, notably the depressants and narcotics, are licitly manufactured for legitimate medical use, and then diverted to the illicit market. Abusers often obtain these drugs by doctor shopping or forging prescriptions, or, from physicians willing to sell prescriptions to drug dealers or abusers, from pharmacists who falsify records, or from employees who steal drugs. Some commonly diverted drugs are sedatives, tranquilizers and antianxiety drugs, and narcotics such as Dilaudid and codeine combinations.

When alcohol was prohibited, diversion from "medical" supplies became a significant problem.  See The History of Alcohol Prohibition.

Two drugs of abuse of special concern are methylphenidate (Ritalin) and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). Although methylphenidate has always been diverted and abused by some segments of the population, DEA is concerned about the nonmedical use of this drug among adolescents who obtain it illegally from friends or classmates. The pills are crushed and snorted like cocaine. The 1994 Monitoring the Future Survey indicated that approximately one percent of all high school seniors had used Ritalin in the past year nonmedically.

It is difficult to see what beneficial effect a Federal agency like the DEA could have on the ritalin use of adolescents.  The fact that one percent have used Ritalin is a matter of concern, but it isn't an epidemic justifying a major drug war, by any means.

Flunitrazopam (Rohypnol) is a potent depressant marketed in some countries for the treatment of insomnia and as a pre-surgical relaxant. The United States, however, has not approved flunitrazepam for medical use in this country. Consequently, it is smuggled into the United States from Mexico and South America. Rohypnol, often called "Roofies" on the street, is abused by teenagers and young adults who abuse the drug for its euphoric effects and to augment the intoxicating properties of alcohol. Heroin and cocaine abusers also abuse the drug. Nicknamed the "Date Rape Drug," it is also used to incapacitate women in order to commit rape. Possession and distribution of Rohypnol is a crime that carries penalties under federal law.

Rohypnol must have been made for the DEA's kind of hysteria.  The term "date rape drug" conjures up the age-old images of drug fiends trying to corrupt white women.  While women certainly have been raped through the use of drug, this is not a unique thing in history -- opium smoking was first outlawed because of the fear that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium den, see Opium is Outlawed -- and there are severe laws to cover rape, with or without the use of any drug.

The 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that the current use of hallucinogens (including LSD) increased between 1994 and 1995 from .5 percent to .7 percent. Use among youth age 12 to 17 increased from 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent. The nonmedical use of tranquilizers, sedatives, analgesics and stimulants remained steady at 1.2 percent of the population.

Again, these comparatively tiny percentages do not, by any means, justify an all-out national war against drugs of this character.  It would appear that the vast majority of citizens are able to control their urges for drugs, with or without the help of the DEA.



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