Good Medicine, Bad Behavior: Drug Diversion in America
Explore the Exhibit
Prescription Fraud and the Criminal Element
DEA and the Science of Diversion
DEA Special Agents and local police seize steroids.
Laws regulating the availability of medicines and other substances were passed in the United States starting at the beginning of the last century. They were put in place in response to growing abuse and addiction problems with those substances. Ever since, there have been individuals and organizations attempting to sidestep the rules and system for both financial gain as well as a need or desire to “get high.”
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA) assigned legal authority for the regulation of controlled substances to the DEA. The statute charges DEA with the prevention, detection, and investigation of the diversion of controlled substances from legitimate channels, while at the same time ensuring that adequate supplies are available to meet legitimate domestic medical, scientific, and industrial needs. The DEA Office of Diversion Control has launched many successful operations over the years to arrest traffickers, seize illegally obtained assets, shut down rogue pharmacies and ensure that the sale of counterfeit or black market products is halted. Some of the most significant of those operations are presented in this section of the exhibit.
DEA inflicts upon the illicit drug business what every legal business fears: escalating costs, diminishing profits and unreliable suppliers. DEA has dismantled major pharmaceutical trafficking and distribution organizations through criminal investigations. Used too, is DEA’s regulatory authority, subjecting registrants to significant civil fines, licensing restrictions or even suspended registrations.
By The Numbers
In 2006 DEA employed 621 Diversion Investigators who initiated 3,152 cases, seized 3,777,926 dosage units of controlled substances, seized $27,114,749 in assets and worked 672,393 case hours.
Forensic chemists perform special tests to analyze drug samples seized by DEA during an operation
The DEA Office of Diversion Control works very closely with the DEA Office of Forensic Sciences and their network of testing laboratories across the United States. During any major operation or investigation, Diversion sends samples of seized prescription medicines and precursor chemicals to the labs for analysis. DEA Diversion learns a great deal from the lab analysis, helping close a case or identify other individuals for investigation.
DEA Forensic Laboratories Across the Country
What began in 1916 with one “chief chemist” has today evolved into a nationwide network of eight regional accredited laboratories. DEA scientists analyze most drug evidence seized by DEA and other federal, state and local police agencies.
Forensic Chemists Analyze Prescription Drug Samples
Protected by a fume hood and eyewear, forensic chemists perform special tests to analyze drug samples seized by DEA during an operation. The results of those tests will tell DEA a great deal about the drugs seized, including where they came from and how they were made.
DEA Diversion Works with DEA Forensic Sciences
Chemical tests and analysis done in these labs help the Office of Diversion Control identify diverted prescription drugs and precursor chemicals.
Fingerprint Exams and Processes
The DEA has fingerprint/photography programs located in seven regional laboratories throughout the United States. These programs provide fingerprint and photography services to support drug law enforcement operations. Between 2002 and 2006, DEA's 21 fingerprint specialists:
Examined 245,302 fingerprint items
Conducted 873,197 fingerprint comparisons
Processed 619,795 photographic items
Forensic Tools of the Trade
DEA forensic scientists use a mixture of high tech and low tech equipment to do drug sample analysis in support of prescription drug diversion operations.
Liquid Chromatography Machine
High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is a commonly used analytical technique in the DEA laboratory system. HPLC can separate components in a liquid medium under high pressure with the use of specialized chromatographic columns. DEA forensic chemists have researched and developed a wide range of HPLC instrumental methods to screen, identify, and determine the purity of controlled substances in a variety of evidentiary materials submitted from DEA Special Agents, Diversion Investigators, and other law enforcement personnel.
Explore the rise of patent medicine industry from the late 1800s through to modern day prescription drugs.