Drug Enforcement Administration

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Since 1973, the DEA has enforced the drug laws in the United States.
Since 1973, the DEA has enforced the drug laws in the United States.
The DEA's enforcement activities may take agents anywhere from distant countries to suburban U.S. homes. Here agents train in Quantico, VA.
The DEA's enforcement activities may take agents anywhere from distant countries to suburban U.S. homes. Here agents train in Quantico, VA.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a United States Department of Justice law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. It shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in narcotics enforcement matters.



The DEA was formed from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs of the US Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1973.


The DEA is headed by an Administrator appointed by the President of the United States and is approved by the US Senate. The Administrator is assisted by a Deputy Administrator, the Chief of Operations, the Chief Inspector, Assistant Administrators for the Operations Support Division, Intelligence Division, and Human Resources Division. Other senior staff include the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Counsel. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia. It maintains its own DEA Academy located on the United States Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia along with the FBI Academy. It maintains 21 domestic Field Divisions with 237 Field Offices and 80 Foreign Offices in 58 countries. With a budget over two billion dollars it employs over 11,000 people to include over 5,000 Special Agents.

Job applicants who have a history of "hard" drug use are excluded from consideration, per DEA policy[1]:

Applicants who are found, through investigation or personal admission, to have experimented with or used narcotics or dangerous drugs, except those medically prescribed, will not be considered for employment with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Exceptions to this policy may be made for applicants who admit to limited youthful and experimental use of marijuana. Such applicants may be considered for employment if there is no evidence of regular, confirmed usage and the full-field background investigation and results of the other steps in the process are otherwise favorable.

Investigation usually includes a polygraph test.

The DEA's relatively firm stance on this issue is in contrast to that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is considering relaxing its hiring policy on drug use[2].


The DEA maintains its headquarters offices in Arlington, Virginia. DEA has offices or posts of duty in over 350 locations throughout the world.

The DEA jointly runs the El Paso Intelligence Center, which plays a major role in and control for drug and immigration enforcement along the United States border with Mexico.

Narcotics Registration

The DEA has a registration system in place which authorizes medical professionals, researchers and manufacturers access to even "Schedule I" drugs. Authorized registrants receive a so called "DEA Number" which is to be solely used for tracking controlled substances. The DEA number, however, is often used by the industry as a general "prescriber" number as a unique identifier for anyone who can prescribe medication.

A valid DEA number consists of[3]:

  • 2 letters and 7 digits
  • the first letter is either an "A" or a "B"
  • the second letter is the initial of the registrant's last name
  • the seventh digit is a "checksum" that is calculated as:
    • add together the first, third and fifth digits
    • add together the second, fourth and sixth digits and multiply the sum by 2
    • add the above 2 numbers
    • the last digit (the one's value) of this last sum is used as the seventh digit in the DEA number


The DEA has been criticized for placing drugs which some researchers regard as having potential medical uses, such as MDMA and ibogaine, on highly restrictive schedules, even over the objections of some experts in the field of pharmacology and medicine. Critics claim that such decisions are motivated primarily by political factors stemming from the US government's War on Drugs, and that many potential benefits of such substances remain unknown due to the difficulty of conducting scientific research. There are also some scheduled substances that are extremely rare and no reasoning as to why they are scheduled could be found. This includes the drug U4EA and bufotenine. The DEA is also criticized for not scheduling dangerous drugs seldom used, such as datura, and for being extremely slow in the scheduling popular analogues of existing scheduled substances, such as DPT, 2C-T-7, and GHB analogues.

The DEA is also criticized for allegedly focusing only on the operations that it can seize the most money from, namely the organized crime cross border trafficking of heroin and cocaine. Some critics say that, based on order of popularity, the DEA should be most focused on marijuana or based on order of danger, the DEA should be most focused on locally freebased "crack" cocaine. Based on order of opiate popularity, the DEA should focus much more on prescription opiates used recreationally, which critics contend is far more widespread than heroin use.

Others, such as the ACLU, criticize the very existence of the DEA and the War on Drugs as inimical to the concept of civil liberties by arguing that adults should have the right to put whatever substances they choose into their own bodies.

The DEA in popular culture

See also

External links

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