DEA Releases 2018 Drug Threat Assessment

The Drug Enforcement Administration's acting administrator, Uttam Dhillon, said the report underscores the magnitude of the nation's opioid crisis. "This report highlights the necessity of using all the tools at our disposal to fight this epidemic," he said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's acting administrator, Uttam Dhillon, announced results of the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment on Nov. 2. The 164-page document outlines the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illegal drugs. "This report underscores the scope and magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States," Dhillon said. "The information in the report represents data and critical intelligence from our law enforcement partners that was gathered over the past year. This report highlights the necessity of using 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."

Key findings in the assessment include these:

  • Controlled prescription drugs remain responsible for the largest number of overdose deaths of any illicit drug class since 2001. These drugs are the second most commonly abused substance; traffickers are now disguising other opioids as controlled prescription drugs to gain access to this market.
  • Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths almost doubled between 2013 and 2016. This has been exacerbated by the increased adulteration of heroin with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Heroin available in U.S. markets is primarily sourced from Mexico, where opium poppy cultivation and heroin production have both increased significantly in recent years.
  • Among opioids, the abuse of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has led to the greatest number of deaths in the United States. Fentanyl is increasingly available in the form of counterfeit prescription pills marketed for street sales and is also sold by traffickers on its own.
  • Mexican transnational criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States. National and neighborhood-based street gangs and prison gangs continue to dominate the market for the street sales and distribution of illicit drugs in their respective territories throughout the country. Drug trafficking remains the major income source for gangs.

During 2016, approximately 174 people died every day from drug poisoning, outnumbering deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and homicides. In 2017, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in nearly 30,000 deaths, and from 2016-2017, Mexican heroin production grew by 37 percent.

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