Opioids remain focus of DEA report, but other threats also prominent | Addiction Professional Magazine Skip to content Skip to navigation

Opioids remain focus of DEA report, but other threats also prominent

October 26, 2017
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The opioid crisis continues to outpace all other drug threats to the nation, but the latest data also indicate trends of concern around methamphetamine, cocaine, new psychoactive substances and marijuana, suggests a report released this week by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The annual National Drug Threat Assessment uses government reporting, public health data and other statistics to assess the threat the nation faces from domestic and international drug trafficking and illicit drug use. In releasing the 2017 document on Oct. 24, DEA Acting Administrator Robert Patterson said, “This report underscores the scope and magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States.”

The report traces the evolution of the opioid crisis and states that while prescription opioid abuse has declined in some parts of the country, prescription opioids still are used by more individuals than heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and PCP combined. Opioids remain largely responsible for drug poisoning deaths having become the leading cause of injury death in the nation, the report states.

Amid the continued attention to the opioid epidemic, however, stimulants are becoming an area of growing concern. “Cocaine availability and use in the United States are rebounding, with some domestic cocaine data sets reaching or surpassing 2007 benchmark levels,” the report states. Methamphetamine also remains a threat, because even though domestic production has been declining, Mexican production has been the major source of methamphetamine available in the U.S.

In fact, the DEA reports, Mexican cartels remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the nation, serving as the principal wholesale drug source for domestic gangs. At the same time, some of the most prominent new psychoactive substances of abuse are synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones that come from China.

Other findings in the report state that:

  • The heroin supply is increasingly adulterated with fentanyl, with the two markets intertwined and with evidence in some areas that fentanyl is actually supplanting the heroin market. Heroin was involved in nearly 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015.

  • Marijuana remains the most widely available and commonly used illicit drug, and 80% of agencies reporting to the 2017 National Drug Threat Survey say marijuana availability is high in their jurisdictions. However, only around 5% of reporting drug agencies consider marijuana their greatest drug threat, “likely due to changing public perceptions on marijuana and law enforcement attention on other illicit drug threats, such as opioids,” the report states.