Historical Events  Brands

Drug Enforcement Agency

Drug Enforcement Administration

Tricky Dicky's legacy

Formed in 1973, the DEA has been the US government's most effective weapon in the war against drugs for decades. Many people, when asked what it stands for, will say the Drug Enforcement Agency. The problem? It's never been called this - apparently it's always been the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Those experiencing this as a false memory are usually surprised to search the web and find most references show "Administration", but they can be forgiven when even some dictionary sites show both. One explanation could be the use of the word "Agency" for other government bodies, such as the CIA and the FAA, where it's always been "Agency". Officers of the DEA are also referred to as "Agents", as well.

Breaking Bad & other references

This seems to have initially been picked up when the full term was used in a famous Breaking Bad episode when the paralyzed crime lord Hector Salamance was forced to spell it out using the letter-by-letter only means of communication available to him, using his bell.

It was called the "Drug Enforcement Agency" in Twin Peaks.


There's an unofficial story covering whether a government body is an Agency or an Administration. It goes like this - when the departments are first set up, they need funding. Where this funding comes from is largely determined by what it will be using the money for, and if it's with operatives "out in the field", such as the police etc, then these are agents so the department becomes named as an agency. If the department will largely consist of internal staff providing data, research and record checking services, it would be an administration to better reflect this role. When the DEA was set up, it was intended to be exactly this, with the police continuing their drug busts and handing all their evidence to the new internal department for the "paperwork", i.e. administration. It's only later that the DEA itself started using their own agent, but by then the original name was too well-established to change.