June 26 marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, also known as World Drug Day. On this day, the global community joins forces to raise awareness about an issue that affects millions in the United States and around the world, and has lasting negative effects on communities - drug abuse.
In the United States the opioid epidemic has sharply focused attention on the need to keep communities and people safe from drug abuse. In 2015, over 33,000 overdose deaths in the United States involved prescription or illicit opioids - an increase of nearly 60 percent over the last 5 years. Of these 33,000, 60 percent - or nearly 20,000 overdose deaths - involved heroin or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.
Acknowledging the severity of the opioid epidemic, President Donald Trump said, “Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in our country. And opioid overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled since 1999. This is a total epidemic...”
Solving this domestic epidemic absolutely requires international action, as fentanyl, heroin and other drugs that are ravaging our communities come from overseas.
Specifically, criminal producers and traffickers in Mexico and China are turbocharging the U.S. drug crisis - illicit fentanyl is shipped from China to Mexico, where it is laced into heroin or pressed into fake prescription pills, which are then sold in the United States. The criminal traffickers sending these deadly products into the United States are operating transnationally, without respect for borders.
We, the good guys, also must work across national borders. The U.S. Department of State has been and will continue to build international will and capacity, both with individual partner countries and within international organizations like the United Nations (UN), to tackle the global roots of the opioid epidemic. Indeed, reducing the availability of foreign-produced illicit drugs in the United States, whether it is heroin, fentanyl, or other illicit drugs, is part of the Department of State’s comprehensive approach to protecting national security. The Bureau where I work, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), is dedicated to countering the flow of illegal narcotics and minimizing transnational crime. INL does everything from training Mexican authorities to go after clandestine drug labs, to working with China to prioritize the fight against fast-proliferating synthetic opioids, to leading action within the UN to stem the flow of illicit fentanyl, its analogues, and the precursor chemicals needed to produce them.
On a day when the world marks the dangers of illicit drug trafficking, we at INL and the broader State Department recommit to combatting the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Follow the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) on Twitter, @StateINL, for more information on what the U.S. Department of State is doing to help fight drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
About the Author: Christine Cline serves as the Acting Director in the Office of Policy, Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
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