The drug crisis our country faces today is unprecedented. It has evolved over the past several decades and has steadily worsened with time. Every state and county, and every socioeconomic group in our country, is directly affected by the negative consequences of illicit drug use. However, today we can see American ingenuity across the Nation, sparked by the commitment to save lives, at work to establish lasting solutions to this monumental problem. Law enforcement and public health innovators working side-by-side at the local level, assisted and inspired by families who have lost loved ones to the scourge of drug use, resourced by government agencies at every level working with private sector partners, are already making a difference. This National Drug Control Strategy, the Trump Administration’s first, establishes the President’s priorities for addressing the challenge of drug trafficking and use, now and in coming years. It also provides the strategic direction necessary for the Federal government to prevent initiates to drug use through education and evidence-based prevention, provide treatment for those suffering from the disease of addiction so they can reach long-term recovery, and reduce the availability of these dangerous drugs in every American community.
The President’s top priority is to address, head on, the current opioid crisis and reduce the number of Americans dying from these dangerous drugs. This crisis alone has resulted in more American deaths in just two years than in the course of the entire Vietnam War. In 2017, there were more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 47,500 of these deaths involved an opioid, and more than half of these deaths involved a synthetic opioid such as illicit fentanyl or one of its analogues. From 2014 to 2017, the number of deaths attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues increased 413 percent, and these synthetic opioids are now involved in more deaths than any other drug such as prescription opioids, heroin, or cocaine. Along with the current opioid crisis, overdose deaths involving heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescribed opioid painkillers have all increased since 2014 as well, and many of these deaths involved more than one drug.
The Trump Administration is matching the magnitude of today’s historic crisis with a historic level of focus and resources. In addition to providing an array of Federal grants across the spectrum of drug issues the Presidentincreased resources in his Fiscal Year(FY) 2019 Budget dedicated to the opioid crisis, held two opioid summits at the White House, established The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (herein referred to as the Commission) via Executive Order in March 2017, and announced his Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand in March 2018.
While confronting today’s drug crisis to arrest its growth and reduce its effects, we must also further develop the capability, knowledge, and infrastructure to respond to the evolving nature of the drug threat aswemovedeeperintothe twenty-first century.Drug traffickerswill continue toattempttosecure ever-greater profits by expanding their customer base, reducing overhead, and mitigating risks to their supply chains. The exponential growth in the availability and use of synthetic drugs in the United States, especially synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues, provides a window into the likely future of drug use and trafficking. Drug trafficking organizations can avoid the costly process of harvesting illicit crops and producing plant-based drugs by the much cheaper and faster process of chemical synthesis. Potent synthetic drugs can be smuggled across our borders in small quantities that can be more easily concealed than bulkier plant-based drugs. They can also be purchased cheaply on the dark web using cryptocurrencies that provide anonymity, and shipped into the United States through international mail or as express consignment shipments. The combination of low production cost, the anonymity of the darkweb and cryptocurrencies, and drugs with higher potency than plant-based drugs, creates a favorable risk-reward structure that drug traffickers will embrace to an even greater degree in the years to come.
Along with the emergence of the greater availability and trafficking of synthetic drugs, we must also confront an emerging crisis of cocaine availability and use in the United States. The increased cultivation of coca and production of cocaine in Colombia, the source of more than 90 percent of the cocaine in the U.S. market, has once again reached record levels. Moreover, the suspension of aerial eradication programs in Colombia during its peace process, from 2015 until today, has led to even greater yield from coca plants,resulting in increased production and purity levels. Cocaine use in the United States started rising again after many years of decline. From 2016 to 2017, overdose deaths in which cocaine was the primary contributing drug increased 34 percent according to the CDC, and the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that in 2017 past-month users of cocaine aged 12 and above increased from 1.9 million Americans to 2.1 million and new initiates to cocaine use increased to 1 million, averaging approximately 2,800 per day
Given the current drug crisis facing America, and the President’s priorities, this Strategy adopts a strong bias toward action. It focuses on leveraging our understanding of the complex interplay between the availability of drugs in the U.S. market and their use, anticipating changes in the drug environment in both the public health and law enforcement domains, and adapting our actions to seize the initiative to make lasting progress against this historic challenge. The global drug trafficking enterprise is vast, dynamic, and adaptable, but it is not without vulnerabilities. It is only through a unified effort in which the Federal government works with, and in support of, creative and resourceful individuals and organizations across the country, that can we address this complex national security, law enforcement, and public health problem.