Washington, D.C. Its primary mission is to provide a semiannual community-level assessment of drug abuse, principally through the collection and analysis of epidemiologic and ethnographic research data. It provides current descriptive and analytic information on the nature and patterns of drug abuse, emerging trends, consequences of drug abuse, and characteristics of vulnerable populations.
Every six months, the work group meets to share information on recent trends. Sources of data include:
reports from researchers, often ethnographic, in major metropolitan areas about local situations,
DAWN data on drug-related deaths, as reported by medical examiners,
DAWN emergency room reports of drug-related medical emergencies, treatment admissions data where available,
data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Domestic Monitor Program drug intelligence reports on seizure, price, purity, prescription, distribution, and arrests,
results of urinalysis data from the Drug Use Forecast program sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, and
data on HIV and AIDS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The various sources are examined by locality and semiannual reports discussing the trends are produced.
The CEWG's greatest strength is its ability to monitor drug-use trends and document regionally specific patterns of drug use. Helping to improve our understanding of injection drug use, its reports include the history of the shift from heroin alone as a primary drug of injection in the late 1970s to the integration of cocaine during the 1980s, both as an independent drug of injection and as used in combination with heroin. Also reported was the emergence and eventual decline some 10 years ago of a midwestern epidemic of pentazocine and tripelennamine (Ts and blues) injection. Whereas the injection of stimulant drugs other than cocaine has remained a relatively isolated phenomenon across much of the country, a series of CEWG publications reveals that amphetamine injection has been a major problem in San Diego, and the injection of stimulants in Chicago is much less common and typified by injection of the pharmaceutical drugs phenmetrazine among whites on the north side of the city and methylphenidate among African Americans on the city's south side. Thus, although not directly involved in the calculation of drug-use prevalence estimates, it can be seen that the CEWG is an invaluable resource in tracking the nature and scope of substance abuse across major metropolitan areas.