A new government report released this week details how opioid trafficking in the United States has changed in recent years as Mexico is now a “dominant source” of the country’s fentanyl supply and synthetic opioids.
The report by the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, a bipartisan congressional commission of U.S. lawmakers, experts, and officials from federal departments and agencies — is warning that if the U.S. fails to take action to combat the opioid crisis, more Americans will lose their lives.
“Some 100,000 Americans overdosed and died — the majority due to a synthetic opioid, such as fentanyl or one of its analogs — over the most recent 12-month period for which we have data,” said Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Democratic Rep. David Trone of Maryland, the commission’s co-chairs, in a letter included in the report.
“These fatalities have increased steeply in the past few years, and early numbers suggest that deaths due to synthetic opioids will have hit the highest numbers in history in 2021. The overdose crisis in the United States claims more lives each year than firearms, suicide, homicide, or motor vehicle crashes.”
The report reveals about two-thirds of the recent 100,000 fatalities, about 170 a day, mostly ages 18 to 45, have been caused by synthetic or human-made opioids like fentanyl.
Fentanyl has been identified as the “primary driver” of the U.S. opioid epidemic and is 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the report.
The report found that fentanyl is trafficked mainly by land across the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico as cartels have increased their use of the U.S. Postal Service.
In order to save American lives, the report says, the government must increase public awareness of the dangers of synthetic opioids and improve and expand access to treatment options including outpatient care, harm and reduction interventions, and rehab.
“The United States will continue to see the number of overdoses rise as markets for illicit drugs evolve, respond, and produce an even wider variety of synthetic opioids, and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) diversify the presence of synthetic opioids in non-opioid drugs and into pills to expand the market beyond traditional opioid users,” the report said.
The commission put forth several recommendations for the U.S. to limit the flow of synthetic opioids into the country and reduce overdoses — by enhancing policy coordination, disrupting drug supply, increasing international cooperation, improving research and data collection, and establishing strategies to reduce demand, like expanding access to treatments.
The report comes after several Bay Area counties have seen a spike in fentanyl-related deaths.
Santa Clara County officials warn that fentanyl is especially prevalent in fake generic pills, often called “M-30s,” “M-box-30s,” “pressed blues,” and “Oxy.”
Click here to view the report.