Help Fight the Opioid Crisis This National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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Area residents participate in a National Prescription Drug Take Back event.
Area residents participate in a National Prescription Drug Take Back event.

Help Fight the Opioid Crisis This National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

From the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to here at the State Department, the U.S. government has no higher drugs-related priority than doing everything possible to reverse the opioid crisis and save American lives.

As a part of this effort, on Saturday, April 27, the DEA is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Day events across the country. This day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications, including prescription opioids. With 47,000 overdoses linked to opioids in 2017 alone, getting these medications off the streets and cutting down on their misuse is crucial.

Looking at America’s opioid crisis, it’s also clear that many substance users who become addicted to prescription opioids move on to illicit opioids, such as heroin or deadly fentanyl, once prescription supplies run out.

As the vast majority of these illicit drugs come from abroad, the State Department’s drugs and crime bureau - the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) - is working around the clock to stop illicit drug flows into the United States.
Super potent fentanyl, for example, is often purchased online and mailed to buyers through consignment shippers such as FedEx from China. U.S. diplomatic efforts recently helped secure China’s commitment to enact strict controls over all types of fentanyl. We look forward to China’s implementing this “classwide scheduling,” and conducting aggressive enforcement to stop the illegal production and distribution of fentanyl substances.

Beyond China, on the broader international stage the State Department made important progress at the March 2019 United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) – the world’s most important drug control forum. At the CND, INL Assistant Secretary Kirsten Madison’s U.S. delegation advocated for concerted and sustained international action to address the opioid crisis, as called for in President Trump’s 2018 Call to Action to Address the World Drug Problem. Through the Commission and by a unanimous vote, the international community secured international controls over four dangerous fentanyl analogues and five other synthetic substances. These measures will reduce criminals’ access to drugs and enable law enforcement to target priority substances, reducing their availability in the United States and elsewhere.

If the fentanyl driving America’s opioid epidemic is not coming directly from China, then it is often being shipped into Mexico and smuggled across the border. Cartels use the same trafficking routes for fentanyl as for other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth; it comes into U.S. cities through a well-disciplined supply chain.

U.S. assistance to Mexico helps improve that government’s capacity to detect and interdict drugs before they cross the border, bust clandestine drug labs, hold criminals accountable for their actions, and tackle the web of illicit finance that drives this drug trade. For example, from 2008 to 2016, INL provided Mexico with inspection equipment and over 500 detection canines. These assets helped Mexican authorities seize more than 300,000 kg of deadly drugs, preventing them from reaching U.S. communities.

INL is leveraging its tools – building the capacity of overseas partners and international engagement – to develop the international architecture required to address 21st century drug threats. 

Good news, there is a role for everyone. By participating in Take Back Day, you can do your part to help prevent incidents of drug abuse and misuse across the United States. 

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About the Author: Kathryn Wellner serves as as Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.