A Michigan State University economist has found that the Carolinas could be a hotspot for trafficking and production of the drug Ecstasy. The study by Siddharth Chandra, director of MSU's Asian Studies Center, was published Wednesday in the journal Global Crime.

Chandra reportedly used data published by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2002 to 2011 to find details about the smuggling routes and production of the drug, which is usually trafficked from cities where its costs are lower to cities where it will fetch a better price. The economist developed a methodology based on the wholesale prices of Ecstasy in 59 cities to identify the cities linked in the transit of the drug.

"NDIC hasn't highlighted the Carolinas as an area of activity but our price data suggest there's a lot going on there," Chandra said in his report. "Prices are probably one of the most important economic phenomena because they carry information about the movement of goods."

The United States has been battling a growing drug epidemic for several years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths in the country due to drug overdose has been more in 2014 than in any year on record. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses.

The methodology used by Chandra to study the drug-trafficking patterns has not been implemented in the past. Several cities in U.S. are suspected of being the source and destination cities. The prices of the drug rapidly increase as it leaves the city of its origin.

Among the key findings, Chandra revealed that Canada was a major exporting country of Ecstasy into the U.S., while cities close to the U.S.-Canada border, including Seattle, Detroit and Portland, are major Ecstasy gateways and distribution centers. Several cities that have lower rates of Ecstasy are along the entire West Coast, in the Central Rockies and in the Great Lakes region. These areas have major interstate highways that are connected to Canada.

According to Chandra, the price of drug increases as it travels inland from the west and east coasts and the Canadian border.

The economist believes that his method could be widely used for drug policy and enforcement efforts, and could also help in plans to allocate resources for treatment. This method could also be used to find the trafficking of other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

"While prices can be used to confirm some of what we already know and suspect, there are instances in which they can tell you things that perhaps you weren't thinking about," Chandra said. "The more information you bring to bear on a problem, the more facets of that problem you get to see."