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USDEA releases National Drug Threat Assessments showing ‘harsh reality’ of drug threats

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday released the National Drug Threat Assessment, an annual publication outlining the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and illicit drug abuse.

“This year’s report shows the harsh reality of the drug threats facing communities across the United States,” said Acting DEA Administrator D. Christopher Evans.  “While the COVID-19 pandemic plagues this nation, so do transnational criminal organizations and violent street gangs, adjusting to pandemic restrictions to flood our communities with dangerous drugs.

“DEA and our local, state and federal partners continue to adapt to the ever-changing landscape, remaining focused on the current threats and looking to the horizon for emerging threats. We will always defend the American people against illicit substances that ruin lives, devastate families and destroy communities.”

Closer to home, Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott, who oversees DEA operations in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, stated, “Fentanyl, whether it’s mixed with heroin or pressed into counterfeit pills, along with methamphetamine and cocaine continue to present the greatest drug threats across the Louisville Division. While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the headlines this past year, overdose deaths have risen sharply and that’s cause for great concern.”

Drug trends in the United States continue to evolve. While fentanyl and its analogs from China have decreased substantially following the DEA’s 2018 emergency scheduling action of fentanyl-related substances and China’s enactment of fentanyl-class controls in May 2019, the opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country.

Meanwhile, the DEA says the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach, with traffickers selling increasing amounts outside of traditional markets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the twelve-month period ending in July of 2020, a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses.

Findings of the DEA report include:

• Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations, or TCOs, remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States.

• Illicit fentanyl is one of the primary drugs fueling the epidemic of overdose deaths in the country, while heroin and prescription opioids remain significant challenges to public health and law enforcement.

• Mexican cartels
are increasingly responsible for producing and supplying fentanyl to the U.S. market. China remains a key source of supply for the precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels use to produce the large amounts of fentanyl they are smuggling into the United States. 

Click image to go to report

• Drug-poisoning deaths and seizures involving methamphetamine have risen sharply as Mexican TCOs increase the drug’s availability in the U.S.

• Constraints associated with the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as travel restrictions, U.S. border closings, closure of nonessential businesses and broad shelter-in-place orders, temporarily posed new challenges to criminal organizations’ movement of drugs during the first half of 2020.

The National Drug Threat Assessment provides a yearly assessment of the challenges communities face related to drug abuse and drug trafficking. Highlights in the report include usage and trafficking trends for drugs such as prescription drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and hundreds of synthetic drugs. New to this year’s report is the effect of COVID-19 during the first part of 2020.

It gathers information from many data sources such as drug investigations and seizures, drug purity, laboratory analysis, information on transnational and domestic criminal groups and U.S. government drug cultivation and production estimates.

See the full report here.

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