Hello, and welcome to the eighth edition of the Data Liberation Project’s newsletter. This is a quick one, bringing you freshly-obtained data from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The Data Liberation Project just got you some more government records! In this case, they’re spreadsheets from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) quantifying the thefts/losses of controlled substances and “listed chemicals” reported to the agency, aggregated by state, business activity, loss type, and year.
Want to use the data right away? Click here.
The DEA requires all entities it has authorized to manufacture or handle such substances to inform the agency about any “theft or significant loss of any controlled substance, disposal receptacles or listed chemicals within one business day of discovery of such loss or theft.”
In September 2022, the Data Liberation Project (DLP) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for database records corresponding to those reports (excluding fields containing narratives or personal information), plus all relevant database documentation.
On Friday, I received the DEA’s response. The agency’s email contained a determination letter and two spreadsheets. The two spreadsheets contain aggregate counts of theft/loss incidents, aggregated by state, business activity, and type of loss — plus the overall quantities stolen/lost.
The agency did not provide any of the underlying report data requested, nor the documentation requested. I intend to appeal this outcome — but, in the meantime, the spreadsheets still seem like a useful contribution to public knowledge.
For instance, they indicate that:
In the first nine months of 2022, Nebraska-based pharmacies reported 6,586,240,471 “units” of controlled substances stolen via “break-in/burglary” — 100x more “units” than for all other reported break-ins in all states, years, and business types since 2010 … combined. (Caveat: Reports can also quantify losses in other measurements, such as grams or milliliters.) Is this a quirk of record-keeping, or a genuine outlier? Reporters may be interested to file targeted FOIA to the DEA for these specific reports.
Arizona and Missouri consistently top the rankings of states with the most incidents of controlled substances “lost in transit.” For instance, in 2021 (the most recent full year available), 3,292 “lost in transit” incidents were reported in Missouri, and 2,917 in Arizona; the next-highest was Texas, with 933 such incidents.
In Texas, the number controlled substance losses reported by reverse distributors (which return or dispose of “outdated or otherwise unusable” material) has surged from 22 incidents in 2018 … to 368 in 2019 … to 2,991 in 2020 … to 3,913 in 2021.
Those are just the first things that jumped out to me. I imagine you’ll find even more. And if you have any questions about the data, do let me know.
That’s all for now! Thank you for reading, and don’t hesitate to reply. Alternatively, fill out the volunteer form and/or suggestion form.