Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Los Angeles County—Update: January 2014
Mary-Lynn Brecht, Ph.D.
Overview of Findings: This report updates data on drug abuse indicators for the Los Angeles County CEWG area since the last reporting period. The most important finding for this 2013 reporting period in the Los Angeles area was the increase in methamphetamine prevalence/consequence indicators, based on percentages of primary treatment admissions and National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) drug reports in the first half of 2013, percentages of reports from relevant poison control center calls for calendar year (CY) 2013, and numbers of coroner toxicology cases projected for 2013. The overall number of primary methamphetamine treatment admissions in January–June 2013 was slightly lower than for the corresponding 6-month period in 2012 (n=21,116 and n=23,112, respectively). The four primary substances accounting for the largest percentages of primary admissions were marijuana (27 percent), alcohol (22 percent), heroin (20 percent), and methamphetamine (19 percent). The proportion of methamphetamine treatment admissions showed an increase in the first half of 2013 from CY 2012 (methamphetamine constituted 17 percent of total admissions in CY 2012). For the other major substances, there was relatively little change from CY 2012 proportions in the first half of 2013, when proportions were as follows: marijuana, 27 percent; alcohol, 23 percent; and heroin, 20 percent. Methamphetamine (33 percent), marijuana/cannabis (31 percent), and cocaine (19 percent) accounted for a majority of Los Angeles-based illicit drug reports from drug items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories for January–June 2013. These results indicated an increase for methamphetamine reports and decreases for marijuana/cannabis and cocaine reports from CY 2012.
Updated Drug Abuse Trends and Emerging Patterns
Cocaine: Primary cocaine treatment admissions accounted for 6.8 percent of total Los Angeles County alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment admissions in the first half of 2013, continuing a downward trend (from 13 percent of total admissions in CY 2009 to 7.5 percent in CY 2012). Among drug reports from items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in the first half of 2013, 18.5 percent were identified as cocaine; this represented a decrease from CY 2012 levels, when cocaine reports constituted 20.2 percent of the total drug reports.
Heroin: In January–June 2013, 19.8 percent of primary treatment admissions in Los Angeles County were for heroin; this represented a very slight decrease when compared with 20.3 percent in CY 2012. Heroin was identified in 6.3 percent of drug reports from seized drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in the first half of 2013; this represented an increase from 5.2 percent of total reports in CY 2012.
Prescription Opioids/Opiates Other Than Heroin: Prescription opioids/opiates other than heroin (i.e., narcotic analgesics) accounted for 3.3 percent of primary treatment admissions in the first half of 2013; this proportion was stable from CY 2012 levels. Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine together accounted for 2.0 percent of drug reports among analyzed NFLIS drug items in the first half of 2013, representing a slight decrease compared with 2.2 percent in CY 2012. Narcotics other than heroin represented 17.0 percent of the drug reports from relevant poison control system calls in January–September 2013. This proportion was very slightly lower than the 17.5 percent level in CY 2012.
Benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, and sedatives together accounted for a very small percentage (0.5 percent) of total primary treatment admissions in the first half of 2013; this proportion was stable from CY 2012. Benzodiazepines accounted for 22.1 percent of drug reports from relevant poison control system calls, a proportion similar to 2012 levels (22.0 percent). The category of "other" amphetamines and stimulants, which includes several prescription drugs, such as Adderall® and Ritalin®, accounted for a small proportion (0.1 percent) of treatment admissions in the first half of 2013; this proportion was lower than in CY 2012 (0.2 percent).
Methamphetamine remained prevalent and of major concern to law enforcement agencies in the Los Angeles County region, according to the area representative. For January–June 2013, the percentage of AOD primary treatment admissions for methamphetamine (18.8 percent) represented an increase from CY 2012 levels (16.9 percent). One in three (32.8 percent) NFLIS drug reports among analyzed drug items were for methamphetamine, ranking it first among substances reported in the first half of 2013. This represented an increase from CY 2012 levels (when 27.6 percent of all drug reports were identified as methamphetamine). Retail and wholesale prices for methamphetamine continued a declining trend and decreased by the third quarter of 2013 from late 2012 levels. Retail prices decreased from $140–$200 per one-eighth ounce in 2012 to $100–$150 in 2013, and wholesale prices declined from $8,000–$11,000 per pound in 2012 to $4,000–$8,800 in 2013. While illicit drugs constituted a relatively small portion (11 percent) of drug reports from relevant poison control system calls for Los Angeles County, methamphetamine was ranked first among illicit drugs in CY 2013 (accounting for 3.4 percent of drugs reports from relevant poison control calls); this was a slight increase over 3.1 percent in CY 2012.
Marijuana/Cannabis was reported as the primary drug problem for 27.2 percent of Los Angeles County primary treatment admissions in the first half of 2013, which was a very slight increase from 26.9 percent of total admissions in CY 2012. More than one-half (59 percent) of primary marijuana admissions were for adolescents younger than 18. Marijuana/cannabis was identified in 30.8 percent of drug reports among drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in the first half of 2013; this was a decrease from 34.7 percent in CY 2012. Marijuana was ranked second among illicit drugs reported in the poison control system (representing 2.6 percent of drug reports from relevant calls); this was a very slight decrease from 2.9 percent in 2012.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) primary treatment admissions remained at a very low level (0.2 percent of total admissions); this proportion was stable from CY 2012. MDMA accounted for 0.6 percent of drug reports from items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in Los Angeles County in the first half of 2013, which was a very slight decrease from 0.7 percent in CY 2012.
Other Drugs: While still at very low levels, synthetic drugs were identified in NFLIS January–June 2013 drug reports (each drug type at less than 0.5 percent of total drug reports). There were slight increases over CY 2012 levels in NFLIS reports for substituted cathinones, phenethylamines, and cannabimimetics (each increasing slightly over CY 2012 levels), while there were slight decreases in numbers from CY 2012 for piperazines (e.g., BZP [1-benzylpiperazine] and TFMPP [1,3-(trifluoromethylphenyl)piperazine]) and tryptamines (e.g., "Foxy methoxy”). Substituted cathinones and cannabimimetics were also appearing with relatively low frequency in drug reports from relevant poison control system calls, decreasing from similarly low numbers in CY 2012.
Emerging Patterns: Trends showed increases for methamphetamine across prevalence/consequence indicators (primary treatment admissions, drug reports among items seized and analyzed in NFLIS laboratories, drugs identified in coroner toxicology cases, and reports from relevant poison control system calls). During the current reporting period, most indicators were declining slightly for prescription opioids/opiates other than heroin; they were relatively stable for benzodiazepines; and indicators were mixed for cocaine, heroin, marijuana/cannabis, MDMA, and synthetic drugs.
Data Sources: Treatment data were provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Alcohol, and Drug Program Administration from CalOMS (California Outcome Monitoring System). CalOMS is a statewide client-based data collection and outcomes measurement system for AOD prevention and treatment services. Submission of admission/discharge information for all clients is required of all counties and their subcontracted AOD providers, all direct contract providers receiving public AOD funding, and all private-pay licensed narcotic treatment providers. Data for this report include substance abuse treatment admissions in Los Angeles County for January–June 2013. Forensic laboratory data were provided by NFLIS, Drug Enforcement Administration, for January–June 2013, representing drug reports (primary, secondary, or tertiary) from analyzed drug items. Drug price data were derived from reports from the Los Angeles County Regional Criminal Information Clearinghouse (LA CLEAR). The prices included in this report reflect the best estimates of the analysts in the Research and Analysis Unit at LA CLEAR, as available for the "Third Quarter Report 2013," based primarily on field reports, interviews with law enforcement agencies throughout the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and post-seizure analysis. Poison control system data were provided by the California Poison Control System for CY 2013 (through mid-December 2013) and represent reports of illicit drugs and all drugs in relevant poison control system calls. Relevant calls are those with human exposure or any other type of call in which an illicit drug was reported with “intentional/suspected suicide, misuse, abuse, unknown,” “contamination/tampering,” or “malicious” reasons. Coroner toxicology data on drugs reported in toxicology cases came from the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner (projected for CY 2013 from the first 9 months).
For inquiries concerning this report, please contact Mary-Lynn Brecht, Ph.D., Research Statistician, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, University of California, Los Angeles, Suite 200, 11075 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025, Phone: 310–267–5275, Fax: 310–312–0538, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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