OGDEN -- The Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force seized 79,321 pills of the party drug Ecstasy during 2010.
The total is four times the average taken off the street annually for the entire state of Utah, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The seizures didn't all come at once, but rather during more than a dozen arrests spread out over the year, said Lt. Darin Parke, strike force commander.
"We delivered a major hit to some folks," he said. "I have to think that's the majority of the pills in the area."
Several of the arrests included amounts of pills "in the tens of thousands," he said.
Those investigations were turned over to the DEA field office in Salt Lake City. For those reasons, Parke and his agents have been keeping quiet about the Ecstasy bonanza for months.
Those amounts indicate a link to manufacturers and dealers elsewhere, probably outside the country because few Ecstasy manufacturers are found inside the U.S., officials said.
"It's likely not many of those pills were meant for Utah," Salt Lake City DEA spokeswoman Sue Thomas said of the strike force's 2010 Ecstasy haul.
With three insterstate highways -- interstates 70, 80 and 15 -- cutting through a mostly rural state, Utah tends to be a drug corridor more than a destination, she said.
The DEA, on average, counts about 20,000 pills of Ecstasy seized by federal and local authorities each year, Thomas said.
"It's not an epidemic," she said of the strike force's 2010 Ecstasy numbers. "Utah is not facing an Ecstasy epidemic based on those numbers. One or two good seizures will skew the numbers. It's leveled off since."
"It was a combination of hard work and good luck," Parke said. "The planets aligned. The information we had panned out. Sometimes we find the drugs are there in the quantity our intelligence says it is, and we had that happen a number of times last year."
The drug used to be made mostly in Europe, Thomas said, but producers have moved to Canada and Mexico for the obvious economic logistics.
"There's not a lot coming from Mexico at all, really," she said. "It's mostly Canada. ... There's not that much manufacturing of Ecstasy I'm aware of in the U.S., and we've never encountered it in Utah."
Methamphetamine, heroin, prescription drugs and marijuana are far more prevalent, the officials said.
"Meth is still the king of the block, the biggest drug threat to the area," Parke said.
Ecstasy is known by a number of names: candy canes, disco biscuit, doves, white doves, eckie, essence, hug drug, love drug, rolls, M&M, E, X and XTC.
The drug sells in quantities such as jars, 100 pills; boats, 1,000 pills; and yachts, 10,000 pills.
One pill, sold at a party, goes for $15 to $30, while a boat, or 1,000 pills, can cost $4,000 or more.
"A reputable Ecstasy dealer, so to speak, if there is such a thing as a reputable drug dealer, will give you a break on large amounts," Thomas said.
A party dosage can be two or more pills, as the effect fades, Parke said.
"It's tied more to the mushroom and marijuana users we run into, and prescription drug abusers, rather than the meth heads," he said.
"It's not as addictive. You don't hear about $100-a-day Ecstasy habits, like you do with meth and heroin."
Users tend to be high school age, or in their 20s and 30s, Parke said. It's a unique, close-knit group of people who tends to stick with people they know, he said, making the groups difficult to infiltrate.
Long-term use has the same potential health problems as any hard drug, including neural and cognitive damage, severe anxiety and depression, according to medical journals.
In high doses, Ecstasy can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature. On rare occasions, this complication can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature that can result in liver, kidney and cardiovascular system failure and, in some cases, death.