New York Drug Addiction
On the surface, New York is arguably America’s most exciting city. Theatre, music, literary events, and personalities, restaurants, fashion, big business – New York has it all. Eighteen million people call this metropolitan area home. They live, work, pursue their entertainments and raise their families in the boroughs of New York or neighboring New Jersey.
Under the surface, the intricate web of drug trafficking, use, and addiction presents a different picture. A market of eighteen million potential customers is hard to pass up. And so there is a convergence of different drug trafficking organizations from every ethnic background that transport drugs into or through New York or manage the street-level distribution network.
This metropolitan area has long been a home to immigrants from every corner of the globe. Now, drug traffickers from any country can blend in easily, making detection difficult. Trafficking organizations include ones that originate in or are primarily run by individuals from the following countries/regions:
- Puerto Rico
- Dominican Republic
- Canada (primarily Asian immigrants from Canada)
- Italy (Italian Organized Crime)
Once these groups bring the drugs into the region, most of the street-level distribution is taken care of by street gangs, such as the Bloods, Crips, Dominicans Don’t Play, Latin Kings, Mara Salvatrucha and Netas, among others.
Intricate Infrastructure Supports Trafficking
Regions rich in transportation and business infrastructure are appealing to traffickers because their goods are easy to conceal in the volume. The port of New York/New Jersey is the biggest container port on the East Coast. In 2007, $166 billion in cargo moved through this port. Drug traffickers continue to find ingenious ways to hide their goods: in toys, inside hollowed-out beads, sports equipment or furniture, soaked into clothing, or, as in a recent case of heroin smuggling, impregnated into plastic goods. The heroin must be extracted from the plastic through a chemical process before it can be distributed.
International airports in New York, Buffalo, and Albany enable passengers who have ingested as much as 23 ounces of heroin encased in condoms or balloons to come and go with the other international traffic. In New York, a new direct flight from Nigeria to JFK International Airport creates the possibility of increased trafficking of heroin from that country. Package delivery services and the U.S. Postal Service are also utilized. Traffickers use these services in part because they can track their packages online. When a package is delayed at any point, the traffickers may suspect law enforcement intervention and can abandon or refuse the package of drugs.
The most extensive subway system in the world enables dealers to get around town quickly. The criss-cross of Interstates (81, 84, 86, 87, 88, 90 and 495) enable drugs to be moved down from the Canadian border or to cross the state on their way from the Southwest border. However, here too, traffickers adapt to the pressure applied by law enforcement. Many are using secondary or back roads to move their drugs to avoid the greater surveillance that exists on the Interstates.
Finally, the abundance of financial institutions makes it possible to get the proceeds out of the country quickly.
Drug Abuse in New York
Types of Drugs Being Trafficked Consistent with Rest of Nation
The same as other regions of the country, the New York area sees trafficking in heroin, cocaine, marijuana, club drugs such as Ecstasy (MDMA), methamphetamine and prescription drugs. But the profile of use is a little different in these East Coast states. Higher levels of heroin abuse and addiction exist in this area than much of the rest of the country. Heroin use is increasing in upstate New York, with more young rural users getting involved with the drug. There are more treatment admissions for heroin addiction than any other drug.
Methamphetamine is a smaller problem in this area than in much of the rest of the United States but has been growing in the last couple of years.
As in much of the U.S., cocaine is a popular drug of abuse. In low-income urban areas around the state, much of it is converted into crack cocaine. Marijuana, either Mexican marijuana brought up from the Southwest border or potent hydroponic marijuana smuggled in from Canada, is widely used.
Also consistent with other parts of the country is the increase in the number of indoor marijuana grows being found on Long Island and in Queens. Primarily, it’s Italian Organized Crime groups that buy and gut houses to set up these hydroponic growing systems.
Prescription drug abuse has been increasing among teens and young adults who may think that its legitimate manufacture makes it safer to abuse, and ketamine, the dissociative veterinary anesthetic, is also seeing more use in some communities.
The Grim Results of This High Availability of Drugs in New York
Based on national figures for dependence and addiction, more than a million people in the metropolitan area are dependent or addicted to drugs or alcohol. In 2006, more than 400,000 people in New York State alone reported that they needed treatment for drug addiction or dependence but did not get it. More than a quarter of a million did enter treatment, with alcohol addiction leading the numbers every year.
As long as there are addicted people in the area, as long as there is a demand for drugs, and as long as there are ruthless entrepreneurs who don’t care about the human wreckage they create, there will be drugs trafficked and distributed. While law enforcement does its best to interdict drug shipments, this effort will always be futile unless real recovery is available to those who have become addicted, and unless effective drug education is provided for young people before they have a chance to succumb to the imagined allure of drug use.
Effective drug treatment programs, drug rehabilitation facilities and drug education such as that offered by Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers around the country are part of the solution. When former drug users are restored to an interest in life and a sense of personal integrity, everyone wins the war on drugs. When a child realizes that life is lived better without a needle, a crack pipe or a joint, the future of our entire country is a little brighter.