DEA Report: Greatest U.S. Drug Threat Is Homegrown

A new federal report says prescription painkiller abuse continues to be the biggest drug threat to the U.S. Meanwhile, a State Department official says America is ratcheting up pressure on Mexico to stem production of heroin there.

The homegrown problem of prescription painkiller abuse continues to be the biggest, deadliest drug threat to the United States, according to the DEA’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. The report says there were 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015, the most recent year for which data is provided, says InSight Crime. This figure is once again higher than any other injury deaths, including those from suicides, homicides and car crashes. The report notes a declining availability and a slight decrease in the abuse of controlled prescription drugs. But it also suggests that heroin use may have increased as a consequence, as opioid users switch from prescription pills to cheaper, often more easily available, heroin, mostly from Mexico. The report said Mexican heroin accounted for 93 percent of heroin tested in U.S. markets in 2015, practically displacing production from South America.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said this week that the U.S. government wants stronger efforts to stem the flow of heroin and fentanyl from Mexico and is critical of a dip in opium poppy eradication there. The DEA said Mexico’s opium production more than tripled between 2013 and 2016. Sullivan told a business meeting in the northern Mexican city of San Luis Potosi Monday the U.S. wants to do more to stop the flow of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid blamed for a spike in overdoses and deaths. “More rigorous, collaborative efforts to confront the threat posed by the production and distribution of heroin and fentanyl are a priority for the United States,” Sullivan said.