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Law enforcement seizures of methamphetamine, marijuana rose during pandemic

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Street signs at a drug-free zoon in the Stevens Square neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Street signs at a drug-free zone

An analysis of law enforcement

seizures of illegal drugs in five key regions of the

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

United States revealed a rise in methamphetamine

and marijuana (cannabis) confiscations during

the COVID-19 pandemic. Seizures of the two

drugs were higher at their peak in August 2020

than at any time in the year prior to the pandemic.

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

cocaine and fentanyl seizures were not affect by

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

the pandemic, provisional overdose death data

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

show that the increased drug mortality seen in

2019 rose further through the first half of 2020. 

The findings suggest that the pandemic and its

and demand of some, but not all, illegal drugs, and

relate restrictions may have impacted the availability

and demand of some, but not all, illegal drugs, and

that availability may have increased in summer

and demand of some, but not all, illegal drugs, and

and fall of 2020 in the five regions included in this study.

The study, publish today

in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was support by

and demand of some, but not all, illegal drugs, and

the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part

and demand of some, but not all, illegal drugs, and

of the National Institutes of Health.

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“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was unclear

how social distancing, travel restrictions and

economic hardship in communities would impact

drug supply and demand,” said Nora D. Volkow,

M.D., NIDA director. “Drug seizure data like these

give us additional insight into the changing drug

use landscape during COVID-19 and may inform

our understanding of rising rates of methamphetamine-

and opioid-involved overdose deaths during the pandemic.”

Measures to address

the COVID-19 pandemic have limited social gatherings, closed international borders, and reduced economic activity across many sectors. While provisional data reveal drug overdose deaths have risen during the pandemic, there is little scientific evidence to illuminate the impact of these measures on drug availability and use in the United States.

Seeking answers, investigators led by Joseph J. Palamar, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and co-investigator on the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), mined data on drug seizures by law enforcement. The data were collect through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, a grant program aim at reducing drug trafficking and misuse administer by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in which the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention play an active role. 

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

Drug seizure data from March 2019

through September 2020 was analyze in five key U.S. regions: Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Chicago, Ohio, New Mexico, and North Florida. Investigators analyzed 29,574 seizures of five drugs: marijuana, methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine. 

Incidences of marijuana and methamphetamine seizures dipped at the beginning of the pandemic, with low points in April 2020. But confiscations of both substances subsequently rose, exceeding pre-COVID-19 seizure rates and reaching their peaks in August 2020. The quantities of marijuana seized, measured by weight, also climbed significantly from April through September 2020.BUY CANNABIS ONLINE EUROPE

Overdose deaths involving methamphetamine started rising steeply in 2009, and provisional numbers from the CDC show overdose deaths involving stimulant drugs, including methamphetamine, have increased 39% in the year ending in June 2020 compared to the year ending in June 2019. Previous research has found that methamphetamine use has increased significantly among people with an existing opioid use disorder(link is external) and has disproportionately impacted certain racial and ethnic communities, especially American Indians/Alaska Natives.

This work was support by NIDA’s National Drug Early Warning System (U01DA051126 and R01DA044207).

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

Reference

J Palamar et alShifts in drug seizures in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic(link is external)Drug and Alcohol Dependence DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108580 (2021).

While investigators found that trends in heroin,

NIDA Press Office
301-443-6245
media@nida.nih.gov(link sends email)

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse

(NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit www.drugabuse.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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