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The 2019-2020 National Drug Threat Assessment: Summary

DEA's annual report on having accomplished almost nothing or having made things worse

The 2019-2020 National Drug Threat Assessment: Summary
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The DEA released their annual National Drug Threat Assessment covering the period from 2019 through the first half of 2020 and it's almost all bad news which comes as no surprise to any sentient human being. Fatal overdoses are up across the board, more drugs are being seized at the border and heroin is being supplanted by fentanyl which is cheaper to produce, easier to smuggle and potent enough that small errors in mixing or measuring can easily yield a lethal dose.

The crackdown on prescription opioids has resulted in fewer prescriptions being written. Consequently, a major increase in counterfeit fentanyl-based pills and heroin is supplying the demand. The DEA doesn't give any numerical data for counterfeit pills but states:

Fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills continued to become more widely available throughout the United States in 2019 and 2020

Evidence of this is apparent in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids.

Fentanyl has overtaken the market for heroin, which has resulted in less heroin production in Mexico with a corresponding increase in fentanyl production. Overdose deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin now exceed overdose deaths from heroin.

Methamphetamine remains at record high levels of purity (the relative percentage of methamphetamine to contaminants, adulterants and byproducts in the sample) and potency (the relative percentage of psychoactive D-methamphetamine stereoisomers in the sample). Overdoses from meth have risen sharply over the last decade and continue to increase. Domestic production of meth has decreased with the regulation of pseudoephedrine in the US that makes cold medicine a behind-the-counter item. Currently, nearly all of the meth consumed in the US is from industrial-scale laboratories in Mexico. The amount of meth seized at the border suggests that more of the drug is being produced now than at any time in history.

The amounts of coca being cultivated has risen sharply since 2014 despite aerial eradication programs. More overdoses and seizures of cocaine are being reported now than at any time in the last decade or so. Cocaine is also found in a significant number of deaths in combination with other drugs including fentanyl.

Cannabis isn't worth mentioning other than to note that incidents involving synthetic cannabinoids in which poison control is called have decreased since their peak in 2015. This appears to be the only good news in the entire 2019-2020 NDTA.

Synthetics cannabinoids implicated in fewer medical emergencies

The section about drug trafficking organizations in Mexico purports that the Sinaloa federation and Jalisco cartel are the two predominant drug trafficking organizations in the US along with the remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization.

Who or what exactly these groups are, I couldn't tell you. The drug trade is resilient against attempts at policing the supply because there is profit to be made by fulfilling the United States' demand for drugs, and the demand for drugs is an irreformable part of human nature. Overdose deaths will continue to increase as drugs become cheaper to produce and more available, pure and potent. Crackdowns on one aspect of the drug trade will produce second and third-order effects which are always worse. This will continue until the fictional pretext of the War on Drugs is abandoned.


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