The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced the establishment of six new enforcement teams focused on combatting the flow of opioids, specifically heroin and illicit fentanyl.
“At a time when overdose deaths are at catastrophic levels, the DEA’s top priority is addressing the opioid epidemic and pursuing the criminal organizations that distribute their poison to our neighborhoods,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “These teams will enhance DEA’s ability to combat trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogues and the violence associated with drug trafficking.”
The announcement comes just one day after President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency over the escalating opioid crisis in America.
The enforcement teams will be based in communities facing significant challenges with heroin and fentanyl, including New Bedford, Mass.; Charleston, W.Va.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C.; and Long Island, N.Y.
In determining the locations for these teams, DEA considered multiple factors, including rates of opioid mortality, level of heroin and fentanyl seizures, and where additional resources would make the greatest impact in addressing the ongoing threat. While the teams are based in specific cities, their investigations will not be geographically limited. DEA will continue to pursue investigations wherever the evidence leads.
DEA received funding in its FY 2017 enacted appropriations to establish these teams, which will be comprised of DEA special agents and state and local task force officers.
The abuse of controlled prescription drugs is inextricably linked with the threat the United States faces from the trafficking of heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, eclipsing deaths from motor vehicle crashes or firearms. According to initial estimates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, or approximately 175 per day. More than 34,500, or 54 percent, of these deaths were caused by opioids.
The DEA continues to aggressively pursue enforcement actions against international and domestic drug trafficking organizations manufacturing and distributing heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Just last week, the Department of Justice announced indictments against two Chinese nationals and their North America-based traffickers and distributors for separate conspiracies to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and other opiate substances in the United States.