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Cocaine remains the "greatest drug threat" to the United States, according to the findings of an annual Justice Department drug survey released this month. The report, "National Drug Threat Assessment 2004," carries statistics on a host of illegal drugs, including heroin, marijuana, Ecstasy, methamphetamine, pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin, and a range of popular club drugs and hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP.
In ranking cocaine just above methamphetamine as the top threat, the report maintains there are almost no places in the United States where a potential buyer would not be able to find the drug for sale. While its threat may be considered high, the figures on cocaine abuse are relatively steady, with about 5 percent of adult Americans using it, according to the report. The snortable white powder, however, "remains second only to marijuana as the drug most seized by federal agencies." Drawing from more than 3,300 state and local law-enforcement agencies and thousands of interviews with law and health officials, the report was produced by the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), which determined a drug's threat level by weighing demand, availability, production, transportation and distribution, and the violence and crime associated with distribution. Cocaine was identified as the drug that most contributes to violent crime by 50.1 percent of state and local law-enforcement agencies who responded to the survey, which also found 82 percent reporting the drug's availability as high or moderate in 2003 ? an increase from 76 percent in 2002. NDIC officials were careful to say the statistics don't necessarily mean that the volume of cocaine available has increased, rather that a slightly higher number of law-enforcement authorities are reporting that the drug is available in their jurisdictions. The primary market areas for cocaine are Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. While Colombian and Dominican entities are involved, "Mexican criminal groups are the predominant distributors of wholesale quantities of cocaine throughout much of the United States," the report said. The report, posted on NDIC's Web site (www.usdoj.gov/ndic), indicates a slight increase in the number of U.S. adults snorting cocaine ? about 5.6 percent in 2002 compared with 5.3 percent in 2001 ? and shows cocaine use among adolescents "appears to be trending downward." It found that use declined from 1.8 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2003 among eighth graders, from 3.4 to 2.8 percent among 10th graders and from 4.4 to 4.2 percent among 12th graders. Additionally, fewer teens are taking crack, the more powerful, smokeable form of the drug. It also found that use among 10th graders declined significantly from 2.3 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2003. Among 12th graders, it slipped from 2.3 percent to 2.2 percent. In addition to the cocaine statistics, the assessment is highlighted by a series of conclusions: ?Law-enforcement officials estimate that some $64 billion changes hands for illicit drugs in the United States annually, with cocaine and methamphetamine considered behind much of drug-related violence. ?Marijuana remains the most widely available and abused drug. ?Most illicit drugs and money are transported along U.S. highways and interstates. ? Pharmaceutical-drug abuse is rising and domestic methamphetamine production is increasing with availability of ice methamphetamine up sharply owing to production increases by Mexican groups. ?Heroin use appears to be declining, but continues to push into rural and suburban areas in the Northeast.