Addressing the Drug Epidemic

Nov 17, 2017

The United States is in the midst of its most severe drug epidemic since the 1980s. Today, more people are dying from drug overdoses than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined, said President Donald Trump:

“Last year, we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses. That's 175 lost American lives per day. That's seven lost lives per hour in our country. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far.”

“Ending the epidemic will require mobilization of government, local communities, and private organizations. It will require the resolve of our entire country,” said President Trump.

The U.S. Department of State plays a key role in this effort. That's because the crisis is fueled by heroin and synthetic opioids that were produced overseas, while transnational criminal organizations move this deadly product into the United States. For these reasons, the national strategy to respond to this crisis must include an international component, said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Jim Walsh.

After injecting herself with heroin, a woman in a comatose state sits on the stairs of Prevention Point.
After injecting herself with heroin, a woman in a comatose state sits on the stairs of Prevention Point.

Already, we are seeing some successes. At the request of the United States, the United Nations recently placed two chemicals used to make the drug fentanyl on an international list of controlled substances.

Since 2015, due in part to U.S. requests, China has taken unprecedented action, controlling 138 narcotic substances.

The State Department is also using foreign assistance to strengthen Mexico's capacity to interdict illegal drugs. This helps improve security along our shared border against the cross-border distribution of heroin and synthetic drugs.

These efforts, along with a slew of new tools developed by the International Narcotics And Law Enforcement Bureau, which address addiction and demand for drugs, will also help address the opioid crisis domestically, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Walsh:

“With over 64,000 Americans dead from overdoses in 2016, with drug traffickers taking advantage of new ways to move and sell their product, including through the dark web, and rogue chemists developing assiduous new synthetic drugs at an alarming rate, we must constantly be adapting our approach in responding to new and deadly realities.”

“This challenge is a dire one,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Walsh, “and it will continue to be a top priority for the department.”