A North American Approach to our Shared Drug Challenge

3 minutes read time
The flags of the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze.
The flags of the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze.

A North American Approach to our Shared Drug Challenge

Illicit narcotrafficking and drug use present an inherently transnational problem -- drug traffickers clearly don’t respect national borders. To succeed in combatting drug trafficking, then, the good guys must also be able to work across borders.  International cooperation is a must.

The State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau, or INL, works all over the globe to advance this very type of international collaboration.  This week we’re in Thailand for the global ‘Bangkok III’ Conference, where the United States is highlighting cross-border anti-drug cooperation within our own home continent.

Unfortunately, amongst the many things linking the three North American neighbors is a very dire crisis -- the opioid epidemic. Frighteningly high overdose figures in the United States, a raging fentanyl crisis in Canada and the United States, and violence spread by drug traffickers in Mexico are all interrelated features of today’s drug crisis.  

On the global stage at Bangkok III our three nations are teaming up to showcase how cross-border cooperation can work in the face of this transnational challenge. The key is to ensure officials from each country -- technical experts, public health officials, and law enforcement -- are working together in concrete ways. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Mexico’s National Control Agency are sharing a stage at Bangkok III to tell this story, and to commit to further strengthening our trilateral partnership.  As the head of the U.S. delegation to the Bangkok III Conference, INL's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Luis Arreaga said:

“We want to achieve an aligned approach by our three countries to address the threat of narcotics misuse and abuse and trafficking of precursor chemicals.”

Following Bangkok III, the United States, Mexico, and Canada will again convene in early March to pursue this aligned North American approach, as part of the ongoing North American Dialogue on Drug Policy. At a series of workshops in Washington, experts from the three nations will share best practices and information on illicit drug production, distribution, and treatment. And later in March, all three of our governments will take part in the annual United Nations (UN) Commission on Narcotic Drugs to consider further ways to reduce the supplies of dangerous drugs. Among U.S. priorities for the United Nations event are new international controls to block drug criminals from the precursor chemicals used to make illicit fentanyl.

At a time when our nation is facing a true drug crisis, with heroin and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl ravaging our communities, the U.S. government is working on multiple fronts --  and with our North American neighbors -- to forge effective and transnational solutions.  

About the Author: Michael Alpern serves in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.