According to recent statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), deaths by drug poisoning, due to overdoes has hit an all-time high in 2015, when it outpaced the suicide, homicide, car crashes, and firearms deaths.
The 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, released earlier this week by the DEA, is a “comprehensive strategic assessment of the threats posed to our communities by transnational criminal organizations and the illicit drugs they distribute throughout the United States.” It further collects data from the state and the local law enforcement and public health services to make a complete picture of the state of America’s struggles with the drug crime.
“The information in the report represents data gathered over the past year, but of critical importance is the real time information we get every day from our partners. It has never been a more important time to use all the tools at our disposal to fight this epidemic, and we must remain steadfast in our mission to combat all dangerous drugs of abuse,” said the Acting DEA Administrator Robert Patterson.
With approximately 140 people dying from the drug poisoning every day in 2015 – 2015 is the most recent year for which the data are available – the report found, the highest recorded rate ever. Drug poisoning deaths remain to be the leading cause of injury death in the United States, having consistently outpaced the other causes of injury deaths since 2011.
The major driver of these deaths is opioids, especially the ones prescription. Since 2001, prescription opioids have become the leading cause of drug deaths, leaving behind heroin and cocaine combined; in the year 2015, prescription opioids made up a huge 63 percent of drug deaths.
Another recent study determined that these rates of opioid abuse plateaued in America back in 2003, but to this day, still remains to be high—approximately 13 percent of the Americans over age 12 admitted to abusing opioids at some point in their lives. There were about 91 opioid overdose deaths a day.
With Heroin and fentanyl also expanding, both in the market share and lethality. “The United States has seen substantial increases in heroin availability in the last seven to 10 years,” the report noted. Heroin was responsible for a staggering 13,000 deaths in 2015.
“This report underscores the scope and magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States,” Patterson said.
While the opioids, prescription and otherwise, remain the most recurring cause of drug death, other drugs also pose significant challenges. Nearly thirty percent of the responding law enforcement agencies identified methamphetamine as being the most significant drug threat in their area, concentrated in the mid-west and western United States. Methamphetamine usage has since declined throughout the late 2000s, but picked up sharply after 2011. Their availability is increasing, as Mexican drug gangs move large quantities of it across the borders.
Cocaine and marijuana were also subjects for the report. Cocaine availability has also increased, and is likely to continue to increase in the forthcoming several years. The report also documents the insane rise in so-called “new psychoactive substances,” which includes synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones.
The report goes on to further address the threats of the transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which have been a major focus for the Department of Justice under the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mexican TCOs, as the report noted, “Maintain the greatest drug trafficking influence in the United States, with continued signs of growth and expansion.” Other Latin American TCOs are also based primarily in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
Mexican TCOs, like the Sinaloa cartel, move these drugs into the United States primarily through the border checkpoints using concealed compartments in their vehicles or tractor trailers. Through these methods, Mexican TCOs bring “significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and possibly fentanyl into the United States annually.”
Asian TCOs may also pose a threat, although their activities are primarily focused on the east and west coasts only. Asian TCOs tend to traffic substances like MDMA and marijuana, and “partner with and recruit Asian Americans, blending into existing immigrant communities, to exploit U.S. drug markets.” Asian drug trafficking recently drew more attention of the Justice Department as it announced their first-ever indictment of Chinese nationals for operating fentanyl-distributing drug rings.
One of the transnational gang, MS-13, has also been a particular rhetorical target for Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General. On Monday, he also promised that “we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets,” announcing further new efforts to target the gang and other of the transnational drug smugglers.