Cross-Site Data / NFLIS: Drug Reports for Items Seized by Law Enforcement

Domain: Availability
Indicator: Drug Reports for Items Seized by Law Enforcement
Data Source: National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS)
Time Period: 2015

Download full Cross-Site NFLIS Indicator for Drug Items Seized by Law Enforcement

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) systematically collects results from drug analyses conducted by state and local forensic laboratories. These laboratories analyze controlled and noncontrolled substances secured in law enforcement operations across the United States. These drug seizure data provide indicators of availability of substances in the illicit market and law enforcement engagement, and are one of our most important indicators for identifying emerging drugs and changes in drug availability (NIDA 2014).

The drug reports presented for the 12 NDEWS Sentinel Community Sites (SCS) are counts based on data queried from the DEA’s NFLIS Data Query System (DQS) on May 18, 2016 and represent drugs identified in items submitted in calendar year 2015 in the SCS reporting areas. (A description of the NFLIS Drug Reports can be found in the Overview and Limitations of NDEWS Data Sources) Table 5a also includes a list of the top 10 most frequently identified drugs in the United States; this list comes from the DEA’s National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) Year 2015 Annual Report and is based on national estimates of drug reports using the NEAR (National Estimates Based on All Reports) approach. (See the Overview and Limitations of NFLIS Data for more information about how the national estimates are derived).

Highlights

Ranking and Prevalence of Selected NFLIS Drug Reports: The 10 most frequently identified drugs from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015 in the United States, based on national estimates of NFLIS drug reports, were (in descending order): cannabis (i.e., marijuana), methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, alprazolam, oxycodone, hydrocodone, buprenorphine, fentanyl, and clonazepam. (Table 5a) Cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, alprazolam, and oxycodone were also among the top 10 most frequently identified drugs in at least 10 of the 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas. (Table 5a) The remaining drugs hydrocodone, buprenorphine, fentanyl, and clonazepam did not rank in the top 10 in the majority of the NDEWS SCS reporting areas. The drugs that did rank in the top 10 in each site appear in the final column in Table 5a.

  • Cannabis (i.e., marijuana) ranked first in the United States as the most frequently identified drug and first or second among 8 NDEWS SCS reporting areas. Maine, Atlanta Metro, Denver Metro, and King County (Seattle Area) were the four exceptions (ranked tenth, ninth, third, and fourth, respectively). (Table 5a)
    • The percentage of cannabis drug reports at each NDEWS SCS site varied from a high of 50.2% in Chicago Metro to a low of 1.7% in Maine. (Figure 5a)
  • Although 2015 national estimates indicate that methamphetamine was the second most frequently identified drug among law enforcement drug seizures in the nation, regional variations were evident. In NDEWS SCS reporting areas in the Southern and Western United States, methamphetamine ranked within the top 3 most frequently identified drugs in 6 of the 7 sites, compared to not ranking within the top 3 in all the Midwestern and Northeastern NDEWS SCS reporting areas. (Table 5a)
    • The percentage of methamphetamine drug reports at each NDEWS SCS ranged from a high of 38.7% in Los Angeles County to a low of 0.4% in Wayne County (Detroit Area). (Figure 5b)
  • Cocaine and heroin ranked among the top 4 most frequently identified drugs in all 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas. (Table 5a)
    • The percentage of cocaine drug reports at each NDEWS SCS site ranged from a high of 34.3% in Southeastern Florida (Miami Area) to a low of 6.3% in San Francisco County. (Figure 5c
    • The percentage of heroin drug reports at each NDEWS SCS site ranged from a high of 32.8% in Maine to a low of 4.0% in Texas. (Figure 5d)
  • Fentanyls ranked among the top 10 drug reports in Maine, Philadelphia, and Wayne County (Detroit Area) in 2015. (Table 5a)
  • MDMA and PCP ranked among the top 10 most frequently identified drugs in many NDEWS SCS reporting areas even though these drugs did not rank in the top 10 nationally. (Table 5a)
    • Regional variations were also identified for MDMA seizures in 2015. MDMA ranked among the top 10 drug reports in 3 out of the 4 sites in the West Region (Denver Metro, King County (Seattle Area), and Los Angeles County) and was among the top 10 drug reports in only one other of the 8 remaining NDEWS sites (Chicago Metro). (Table 5a
    • PCP ranked in the top 10 drug reports in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago Metro, and Los Angeles County in 2015. (Table 5a)

Drug Reports for Selected Categories of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS): Six NPS drug categories are of current interest to the NDEWS Project because of the recent increase in their numbers, types, and availability. The NPS categories are emerging drugs, and as such, each category does not necessarily represent a large percentage of drug reports among total items seized. However, the identification of these substances in NFLIS is one of the most important indicators that we have for identifying the availability of new and emerging drugs. Table 5b presents the counts and percentages of total drug reports of the six NPS categories, opioids, and the two drugs (MDMA and PCP) that ranked among the top 10 most frequently identified drugs in many NDEWS SCS reporting areas but were not ranked in the top 10 nationally.

  • Six of 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas saw evidence of all NPS categories in their area (i.e., included at least one report of a drug in each of the NPS categories). The 6 sites were: Chicago Metro, Atlanta Metro, Southeastern Florida (Miami Area), Texas, Denver Metro, and Los Angeles County. (Table 5b
  • Most of these NPS categories represent less than 3.0% of the items seized, with the exception of fentanyls in Maine (10.9%); synthetic cannabinoids in Texas (4.7%); and synthetic cathinones in Southeastern Florida (12.9%). (Table 5b
  • Fentanyls or synthetic cathinones were reported in all 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas in 2015; synthetic cannabinoids were reported in 11 NDEWS SCS reporting areas; 2C Phenethylamines (e.g., NBOMe-type drugs) in 7 reporting areas; piperazines in 9 reporting areas; and tryptamines (e.g., DMT) in 10 NDEWS SCS reporting areas in 2015. (Table 5b)
    • NDEWS reporting areas in the Southern United States reported higher numbers of synthetic cathinones. (Table 5b
    • Out of the 15,520 fentanyls seized nationwide in 2015, 240 fentanyls were identified in Southeastern Florida (Miami), 220 in New York City, and 144 fentanyls in Maine. (Table 5b
    • Out of the 31,621 synthetic cannabinoids seized nationwide in 2015, 4,646 synthetic cannabinoids were identified in Texas, 336 in Chicago Metro, and 148 in Atlanta Metro.  (Table 5b)
    • Out of the 14,568 synthetic cathinones seized nationwide in 2015, 2,916 synthetic cathinones were identified in Southeastern Florida (Miami), 905 in Texas, 560 in Atlanta Metro, and 349 in Chicago Metro. (Table 5b)

Emerging Drugs Identified in 2015: Table 5c presents the top 5 drugs that were identified within each NPS category in each of the 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas in 2015. There is a range in the number and types of substances detected across the 12 NDEWS sites.

  • Fentanyls: Fentanyl appeared in all 12 NDEWS SCS sites and Acetylfentanyl appeared in 6 NDEWS SCS sites out of the 8 in the Northeast, Midwest, and South Regions, and only 1 of 4 sites in the West Region. (Table 5c)
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids: XLR-11 was reported in 11 sites and AB-CHMINACA was reported in 8 sites. (Table 5c
  • Synthetic Cathinones: Ethylone, alpha-PVP, and methylone were the most commonly reported synthetic cathinones in the 12 NDEWS SCS reporting areas in 2015. 
  • 2C Phenethylamines: Texas (355 reports) reported the highest number of 2C phenethylamines.
    • 25-I-NBOMe appeared in the most NDEWS reporting areas in 2015 (7 of 12). (Table 5c
    • 25-C-NBOMe and 25-B-NBOMe each appeared in 6 NDEWS SCS sites in 2015. (Table 5c)
  • Piperazines: BZP and TFMPP were the two most common piperazines reported. (Table 5c)
  • Tryptamines: DMT appeared in 9 NDEWS SCS reporting areas. (Table 5c)