The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released the 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment, an utterly exhaustive report that describes the many dangers of drug trafficking and illegal drug abuse that currently threaten people in the U.S.
Of little surprise, the annual report revealed that illicit fentanyl is the “primary driver” perpetuating the overdose epidemic, as fentanyl and its analogs are involved in more overdose fatalities than any other illegal substances. Fentanyl is a human-made opioid that can be found up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
From the report:
“Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids—primarily sourced from China and Mexico—continue to be the most lethal category of illicit substances misused in the United States.”
It can be prescribed legally to manage severe pain but is usually found in forms such as patches and lollipops that are harder to abuse. Moreover, it is believed that purely illicit versions made in clandestine labs are inundating the black market, as opposed to those that are a product of prescription drug diversion.
Of increasing concern to the DEA is the growing presence of illegal pill operations in the U.S. that are making millions of counterfeit painkillers using fentanyl powder trafficked in from other countries, especially China and Mexico.
From the report:
“Clandestine fentanyl pill pressing operations will likely increase as DTOs (drug trafficking organizations) seek to appeal to the large pill abuser population in the United States, with counterfeit fentanyl-containing pills continuing to be associated with clusters of overdoses and deaths due to inconsistent mixing and often unexpectedly high potency.”
A recent drug bust in Phoenix, Arizona, supports this claim. It was reported that nearly 170,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl were confiscated by the DEA and local law enforcement.
Due to pressure from the U.S. government, China has been cracking down on illicit fentanyl labs. Still, unfortunately, the DEA now expects the main sources of fentanyl manufacturing to move to Mexico and India.
The Good News
One positive element of the DEA report is the ongoing decrease in overdoses involving prescription opioids overall. Overdose fatalities involving both natural and semi-synthetic opioids, which include painkillers such as oxycodone, dropped 3.8 percent from 2017 to 2018.
The DEA also reported that the supply of prescription painkillers is at its lowest since 2006. DEA production allowances for oxycodone and hydrocodone have been nearly cut in half since 2016, and additional cuts have been suggested for 2020.
Although the retail supply of prescription opioids has dropped significantly, however, the diversion of these and other controlled drugs by medical providers and wholesale distributors has soared. For example, there were more than 18,600 “lost in transit” reports filed in 2018, which is nearly six times the amount reported in 2010.
From the report:
“It is unclear if these dosage units are being diverted, destroyed, or truly lost. Although representative of only a small number of DEA registrants, diversion by physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals and their staff remains a threat to communities across the United States.”
The DEA also predicted a steady decline in the opioid supply over the next few years and that those who abuse prescription painkillers may turn to heroin, illicitly-produced synthetic opioids, and meth to achieve similar effects. In turn, this trend may serve to increase overdose fatalities further, at least through the upcoming year.
The DEA also noted that the use of stimulants such as meth and cocaine has been becoming more widespread. Although most cocaine users favor snorting or injecting the drugs, law enforcement agencies have also been finding cocaine in pill or tablet form.
Finally, while the DEA has identified the herbal drug kratom as being of concern, and once attempted to ban it, there is no mention of it in the annual drug threat assessment.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Drug and alcohol addiction are long-lasting, potentially life-threatening diseases that often require professional treatment to overcome. Just Believe Recovery offers medical detox and comprehensive residential and partial hospitalization programs intended to address all aspects of a person’s health and wellness, not just addictive behavior.
Furthermore, we treat the whole individual, including pain conditions, mental health issues, trauma, and help clients to identify the underlying factors that contribute to their addiction. Using evidence-based services such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning, we seek to ensure that clients receive all the tools, education, and support they need to recover successfully and sustain long-term happiness and sobriety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to opioids, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us and find out how we can help you get started on the path to recovery, one small step at a time!