North Carolina

North Carolina is thought to be the secondary distributor hub to most illegal drugs.  This is directly related to the illegal aliens and foreign nationalities in the state.  North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the United States. With the Mexican population in the state doing migrant work that has now turned into taking over large roles in every area of the work force of North Carolina.  Mexican traffickers play a dominant role in the illegal drugs that are in the state.

North Carolina

North Carolina Struggles With Addiction

Marijuana is known to be the most available drug due to the Mexican DTO’s growing this drug in the state and also importing hundreds of pounds from Mexico.  The seizure rate for this drug averages around 1,805.7 kilograms per year. This is a wide spread problem throughout the state and is only seen to get bigger as the population increase’s with the influx of foreign immigrants.

Cocaine is becoming less available in the state of North Carolina.  It is being harder to move the cocaine from Mexico through to the United States. The Mexican traffickers are finding other means of getting drugs into the state by using interstate highways to bring the drugs in from other locations that have a ready surplus of cocaine.

Methamphetamine has been a statewide problem in North Carolina for many years. Law enforcement officers are finding that there are less labs and the availability of meth is decreasing somewhat in the last several years.  The Mexican traffickers are still able to supply this drug to the state in heavy quantities, but the biggest surplus is going to the Metropolitan cities in North Carolina.

Drug use in North Carolina

North Carolina is in the southeastern U.S. and borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It is the 28th largest and the 10th most populated state in the nation.

With a general population of about 8,049,000, North Carolina has a state prison population of 29,964 and is ranked 13th nationally for violent crime.

North Carolina is experiencing a major increase in drug trafficking. The majority of the rise is due to the number of Mexican nationals moving into the state.

Since 1980, Raleigh’s Hispanic population has grown 1,189 percent, or an estimated 72,580 immigrants. Charlotte’s Hispanic immigrant population has grown 962 percent, or an estimated 77,092. And, Greensboro’s Hispanic immigrant population has grown 962 percent, or an estimated 62,210.

These figures are just estimates because of the problem of tracking illegal aliens in the state. While the immigrants may not be involved in trafficking, their presence allows traffickers hide within Mexican communities.

They commonly ship and distribute cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The rapid population growth in areas such as Raleigh has also resulted in additional crime, including an increase in drug activity.

Drug Use in North Carolina

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides information on the use of alcohol and illegal drugs, including prescription drugs. In the most recent survey, 7.75 percent of North Carolina residents reported using illegal drugs. The national average is 8.02 percent. Additionally, 3.51 percent of North Carolina residents said they used an illegal drug other than marijuana. The national average is 3.58 percent.

Drug Abuse

The biggest drug threat facing North Carolina is cocaine. Across the state, cocaine and crack cocaine are easily accessible.

In urban areas, heroin is commonly available although it is rarely found in the rural areas of North Carolina. Heroin abuse is found mostly among older, chronic abusers who inject it. Since the 1990’s, however, a younger, middle-class group has begun to abuse heroin due to the availability of high purity South American heroin. Most of the supply in the state is from South America, although some of it comes from Mexico

The most widely available and abused drug in North Carolina is marijuana. Brought in from Mexico for the most part, although available from local sources as well, it continues to be easily obtainable in the state.

The fastest growing threat to the state is methamphetamine. Meth has replaced crack cocaine in some areas as the main drug of choice as it becomes increasingly available and is less expensive. The popularity and abuse of methamphetamine are increasing throughout the state.

About 1.26 percent of state citizens reported their dependence on illegal drugs in the past year according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

North Carolina Drug Climate


North Carolina is a destination state for cocaine, as well as a staging and mid-shipment point to the northern states along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest, including Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Cocaine is readily available and major traffickers take advantage of the state’s interstate highways, which are major shipment routes for cocaine being transported from sources to other states. These major source areas are California, Arizona and Texas, with major sources of supply being traffickers in Mexico.

Normally, cocaine is transported in private or rental cars and trucks. Shipped by Mexican drug cartels, loads of cocaine that arrive in North Carolina are used to supply drug distribution networks. This presents an enormous threat to life in North Carolina’s inner city communities.


Heroin use and availability is very low in North Carolina. Many areas of the state, such as Greenville, Durham and Rocky Mount, report that heroin abuse has been limited to an increasingly smaller population.


Methamphetamine cases are on the rise in urban areas such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and Asheville. Rural communities in the western part of the state are experiencing a surge in methamphetamine abuse, too.

Meth is coming in from primary sources on the west coast, mainly California and Arizona. A major supply also comes from Mexican traffickers based in northern Georgia.

Mexican traffickers from these states have been identified as the illegal manufacturers and suppliers for meth in multi-pound quantities. In 2003, the Asheville Post of Duty took aim at a large Gainesville-based Mexican meth trafficking group dealing over 40 pounds a month to users in western North Carolina.

Smaller laboratories are becoming a threat in the western part of the state. Although they only produce small quantities of meth, they have doubled in number over the recent years and pose a major safety hazard for first responders. They also contribute to crime in rural counties, and create a drain on state and local resources.

The DEA has joined in an aggressive campaign against meth labs. It is also telling local stores about federal laws which govern the sale of some items, such as iodine, pseudoephedrine, and anhydrous ammonia. The sale of these items to someone who is suspected of cooking meth can result in the seller being arrested.

Meth Lab Seizures

Nationwide, meth lab seizures declined dramatically after the 2005 Federal Combating Methamphetamine Epidemic Act and similar state laws to control the sale of pseudoephedrine. Recently, the number of seizures has started to rise again due to “smurfing,” which is the bulk purchase of pseudoephedrine for non-therapeutic reasons, and due to smaller, more mobile labs. Nationwide, meth lab seizures rose 76 percent between 2007 and 2009. Meth lab seizures in North Carolina have mirrored this overall trend, rising 32 percent from 2007 to 2009.

Club Drugs

The club drugs that are most popular in North Carolina are ecstasy, GHB and LSD. The use of these drugs has increased across the state and is especially popular with college and high school students.

With more than 50 colleges and universities in North Carolina, there is a large potential market for club drugs.

While a sizeable problem, ecstasy is not posing near the same threat as cocaine, meth and marijuana. Information gathered from local and state sources indicate that ecstasy use is on the rise, arriving from drug networks in New York, Florida and California.

Most notably distributed in larger cities and along the coast where beach cities attract tourist populations, law enforcement is targeting ecstasy distributors and their out-of-state suppliers.


Marijuana is one of the most wide spread drugs found in North Carolina and its availability is increasing. One cause for the rise in the accessibility of Mexican marijuana is the influx of Mexican trafficking groups that are implementing smuggling operations directly from Mexico via cargo containers transported by tractor-trailer trucks, particularly in the central portion of the state.

In addition, marijuana is being smuggled in ever-increasing amounts via campers, pickup trucks, and other large vehicles.

Over the past five years, the North Carolina’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication Suppression Program officers has seized more and more homegrown marijuana; specifically, in 2000 a total of 40,464 marijuana plants were seized, by 2001 the figure rose to 89,900 plants, and in 2002 there were 112,017 plants. However, in 2004, only 35,965 marijuana plants were seized.

Marijuana is the most commonly named drug among primary drug treatment admissions in North Carolina.

There were 27,748 marijuana offense arrests in North Carolina in 2007, representing an arrest rate of 306 per 100,000, which puts North Carolina at 20th in the nation. There were an estimated 673,000 people who had used marijuana in the past year in North Carolina during 2007.

In terms of overall severity of maximum sentences for marijuana possession, North Carolina ranks number 33rd in the nation, based on penalties for a first offense. When it comes to penalties for just under 1 ounce of marijuana, North Carolina is ranked at number 6. Because of similarities between the laws in several states, there are only 12 rankings in this category.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in North Carolina and everywhere else across the country. Prescription drugs such as painkillers can be very addictive and just as dangerous as any street drugs.

As to illegal pharmaceuticals, while they are not as well-known a class of drugs for abuse like cocaine or marijuana, the illegal sale and abuse of prescription drugs is widespread.

Abusers are known to “doctor shop,” finding a clinic or doctor’s office that willingly gives out prescriptions for pain medication, or as in one case, find out where of a clinic or pharmacy is giving out freely narcotics on demand without a prescription. From there, the drugs are sold or swapped state wide.

Abusing or misusing prescription drugs can be fatal. Prescription drug overdoses are the main cause of death due to accidental injury in the country, exceeding even motor vehicle deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. According to data from the N.C. Division of Public Health, more than 1,000 in the state die from prescription drug overdoses each year.

State Bureau of Investigation investigates prescription drug forgery rings, doctors and pharmacists who redirect prescription drugs from legal use for illegal activities, and deaths by prescription medication overdose. The Bureau’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit has experienced a 400 percent increase in cases related to illegal prescription drugs over the past five year period.

Drug related deaths

The rate of drug related deaths in North Carolina is very similar to the national average. As a direct result of drug use, 1,125 persons died in North Carolina in 2007. This is compared to the number of persons in North Carolina who died from motor vehicle accidents (1,818) and firearms (1,116) in the same year.

North Carolina Drug Crimes

How harsh a drug charge is depends on what type of drug is possessed. The severity of may also be more or less depending on how much of the drug is possessed as well. In North Carolina, drugs are classified into schedules, with schedule I being the most harshly punished and schedule VI being the least harsh. Drugs are categorized generally based on how addictive they are and how harmful the side effects are. This is a compiled a list of the North Carolina schedules and what types of drugs are included to give an idea of the seriousness of each level and the various types of illegal drugs.

1. Schedule I – Includes Peyote, Heroin, GHB, Methaqualone, Ecstasy, and Opiates. Possession of any of these drugs is a Class I Felony.

2. Schedule II – Includes Raw Opium, Opium Extracts, Cocaine, Hydrocodone, Fluid and Powder Codeine, Morphine, and Methadone. The first offense for any of these is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and a second offense is a Class 1 Felony

3. Schedule III – Includes Anabolic Steroids, Ketamine, and some Barbiturates. The first offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and a second offense is a Class 1 Felony.

4. Schedule IV – Includes Xanax, Rohypnol, Valium, Clonazepam, Darvon, and Barbital. The first offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and a second offense is a Class 1 Felony.

5. Schedule V – Includes over the counter cough medicines with codeine. The first offense is a Class 2 Misdemeanor and a second offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

6. Schedule VI – Includes Marijuana, Hashish, and Hashish Oil. The first offense is a Class 3 Misdemeanor and a second offense is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

If someone has been charged with trafficking illegal drugs the punishments will likely be harsher than for those charged with a first offense.

Return pseudoephedrine to prescription drug status

With a sharp increase in meth lab incidents, North Carolina is closely watching the state of Oregon, which returned medicines containing pseudoephedrine to prescription drug status in 2006. Several years later, the results are promising, with meth lab incidents going down from a high of 467 in 2004 to 12 in 2009 and Oregon officials reporting a virtual “eradication” of “smurfing” and meth labs. After experiencing a similar steep increase in meth lab production and trafficking, the state of Mississippi passed similar legislation, which took effect on July 1, 2010. After six months, Mississippi reported that there has been a nearly 70 percent reduction in meth cases statewide.

Mobile Enforcement Teams

A cooperative program between state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. Since the inception of the MET Program, a total of 436 deployments have been completed nationwide, resulting in 18,318 arrests.

Mobile teams have deployed five times in the state of North Carolina since the program began: in Monroe, Kinston, Durham, Lumberton, and Rocky Mount.

Regional Drug Enforcement Teams

This program was intended to supplement existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is not enough local drug law enforcement to handle the problem.

This program was established in 1999 in response to the danger posed by drug trafficking organizations that established networks of smaller groups to conduct drug trafficking operations in lesser, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States.

As of January 31, 2005, there had been 27 deployments nationwide, and one deployment in the U.S. Virgin Islands, resulting in 671 arrests. There have been two RET deployments in the State of North Carolina since the inception of the program: in Asheville and Charlotte.

Other Enforcement Operations

The OCDETF programs in the Eastern, Middle, and Western Federal Judicial Districts of North Carolina are very strong. The Western District ranks number one in prosecutions in the Southeast OCDETF Region.


Between 2000 and 2007, the unintentional overdose death rate in North Carolina more than doubled (106.3 percent increase). A majority of the 2007 deaths were caused by opioid pain killer use, and methadone was associated with 34.1 percent of the deaths. To gain a better understanding of unintentional overdoses, the state examined medical and prescription drug paid claims among the North Carolina Medicaid population.

North Carolina UO death certificate records were linked to Medicaid enrollment and paid claim records for calendar year 2007. All 2006 and 2007 claim records were examined for the UO death and methadone prescription populations, focusing on medical care and associated costs for these two groups. Results were compared with a random sample of the Medicaid population.

Of the 901 UO deaths in 2007, 301 (33.4 percent) were enrolled in Medicaid. Methadone was a contributing cause of death for 98 (32.6 percent) of the UO deaths. Only 26 (26.5 percent) of the Medicaid enrollees that had methadone-related deaths had received a Medicaid paid methadone prescription or clinic services within a year of their death.

The Medicaid population in North Carolina experienced a significantly higher rate of drug overdose deaths than the rest of the North Carolina population. This study goes on to suggest that fatal overdoses among the state Medicaid population are associated with claims for substance abuse, mental health disorders, and routine medical care for pain management. Most of the methadone-related deaths among the Medicaid population did not involve a prescription for the drug, suggesting methadone was obtained in a way that was illegal or unauthorized.

Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is also continuing to grow to meet increasing demands.  Addiction recovery centers provide comfort, compassion, and commitment to all addicts that choose to get help in this state.

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