Opioid misuse is hitting the United States harder than any other country, but it’s on the global community to work together on solutions to curb the epidemic, members of a panel at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit agreed on Tuesday in Atlanta.
Representatives of U.S. and international agencies fighting the crisis highlighted their respective organizations’ efforts:
- James A. Walsh, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs: The bureau considers the opioid crisis its highest drug control priority, Walsh said, and among its areas of focus is addressing sources of supply. The bureau is deepening its partnership with authorities in Mexico, training Mexican law enforcement on finding and dismantling clandestine drug laboratories producing heroin.
- Mauricio Ibarra, general director for North America affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico: Working with officials in the United States and Canada, Ibarra says the ministry is taking “a business approach” to address production, distribution, markets and income linked to heroin. Military personnel has also been involved with the effort, destroying illicit crops by hand and removing 1.5 million tons of heroin from the market.
- Raymond Donovan, special agent in charge for the DEA’s Special Operations Division: Donovan said 97% of the heroin seized by DEA in 2017 originated in Mexico, up from 82% a year prior. (These figures, however, were disputed by Ibarra, who cited information gaps on drug trafficking that the U.S. and Mexico are currently investigating.) Donovan discussed the rise in the production of fentanyl, a lucrative substance that can net profits of $8 million to $20 million from 1 kilogram. He also provided an overview of how the “dark web” has been used to facilitate distribution networks through overseas shipments through international mailing services, with transactions being completed using cryptocurrencies.
- Justice Tettey, chief of Laboratory and Science, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: In addition to facilitating global coordination of efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, Tettey said the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently agreed to schedule six fentanyl analogues, including carfentanil, under international drug control conventions. This decision was reached during a commission session held in March in Vienna.
The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit is the largest national collaboration of professionals from local, state, and federal agencies, business, academia, clinicians, treatment providers, counselors, educators, state and national leaders, and advocates impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use.