ALBANY, New York (CNN) -- Nick, 16, says ecstasy is rampant in his high school, with kids often mixing the drug with meth and other substances.
More than half of all ecstasy seized in the United States last year was laced with meth, authorities say.
"You just have to know the right person. It's about as easy as any other drug. You just gotta ask for it," says Nick, who asked that his last name not be used. "It's easy to get."
Law enforcement officials say stories like these highlight a disturbing trend they're seeing across the country. Most alarming, they say, is not only is ecstasy back after years of decline, but most of the time it's laced with meth.
More than 55 percent of the ecstasy samples seized in the United States last year contained meth, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, compared with 44.5 percent the previous year. And the drugs are coming in at rapid pace from Canada. Watch ecstasy's pipeline into U.S. »
Almost 5.5 million pills of ecstasy were seized in the states bordering Canada in 2006 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available) -- an almost tenfold increase since 2003, top drug enforcement officials say.
"They drive them in. They bring them in by boat. They bring them in by plane. They bring them across by people just carrying them across their back much like the southwest border," says Ed Duffy, an assistant special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration's northern region.
Because meth is less expensive than ecstasy, mixing the two saves producers money, but it also makes it more dangerous, officials say.
Ecstasy can cause sharp increases in body temperature and can result in liver, kidney or heart damage. When laced with meth, officials say, the combination can cause more severe harm because meth can damage brain functions, as well as lead to an increase in breathing, irregular heartbeats and increased blood pressure. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says meth -- or methamphetamine -- is a "very addictive stimulant drug."
Law enforcement officials say European countries cracked down on ecstasy production in the early 2000s and manufacturing moved to Canada. And now, Asian gangs in Canada have been smuggling the chemicals needed to make ecstasy from China and India, officials with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tell CNN.
Finished pills are then pushed in vast quantities into the United States, a flow that's difficult to stop because of the vast, largely unpoliced border, officials say.
Those on the front lines in Canada and the United States say they are working closely and sharing intelligence to try to stem the flow. Canadian officials also say they have a good relationship with Chinese law enforcement.
The Mounties have created teams across Canada focused on identifying the criminal organizations producing ecstasy and meth and say they have shut down 17 labs in the past year.
"The labs that we're finding now are what you refer to in the United States as super labs. We call them economic-based labs," says Raf Souccar, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Each lab produces more than 10 pounds of ecstasy in one batch, he says. "It's not your mom and pop operation. It tells me that it is criminal organizations that are, yes, more sophisticated and producing it for profit as opposed to producing it to fuel their habit."
It's then finding its way into schools, like Nick's in Albany, New York.
"I have been seeing an increase in pill use among the teens in general," says Greg Reid, a counselor at Equinox Community Services Agency, which sponsors drug counseling and other activities for youth in Albany.
"They do something called 'pharming' where they throw a bunch of pills into a bowl and kind of choose or take out the pills they want."
Ecstasy pills are often among the drugs of choice in the bowl.
"I have seen that increase in the past two years," Reid says. "Ecstasy ... can be very dangerous, especially if you don't know what it is getting mixed with." E-mail to a friend
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|