2024 National Drug Threat Assessment highlights synthetic drug crisis in the United States

June 11, 2024

National Drug Threat Assessment: DEA reports dangerous shift from plant-based to synthetic drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has published its 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), providing a detailed analysis of illicit drug threats and trafficking trends in the United States.

The report emphasizes the shift from plant-based drugs to synthetic drugs, highlighting the increased danger and prevalence of these substances.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-related deaths claimed 107,941 American lives in 2022.

The NDTA identifies fentanyl and other synthetic opioids as being responsible for approximately 70% of drug-related deaths.

Seizures of fentanyl, in both powder and pill form, have reached record levels, nearly doubling over the past two years.

Methamphetamine and other synthetic stimulants account for about 30% of these deaths, with nearly all methamphetamine sold in the U.S. being manufactured in Mexico.

Intersection of drug trafficking and illicit finance

The 2024 NDTA provides in-depth profiles of the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, which are responsible for much of the clandestine drug production and smuggling from Mexico into the United States.

These cartels have developed extensive global supply chain networks, relying on chemical companies and pill press manufacturers in China to supply the necessary components for drug manufacturing.

They operate clandestine labs in Mexico and utilize their vast distribution networks to transport the drugs into the United States.

Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator, explained the DEA’s response to these threats: “Our efforts include launching three Counterthreat Teams to execute a network-focused operational strategy.

“DEA’s efforts also include enforcement operations such as Operation Overdrive and Operation OD Justice, which target violent individuals and investigate fatal drug poisonings in our communities.”

DEA’s initiatives to combat the synthetic drug crisis

The DEA has prioritized reducing the supply of deadly drugs in the U.S. and combating the two cartels responsible for the majority of drug trafficking.

The agency has acted urgently to target the criminal networks responsible for the influx of synthetic drugs into the United States.

This includes collaboration with local law enforcement and other partners to address the crisis at multiple levels.

The 2024 NDTA serves as a critical tool for law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and prevention and treatment specialists, providing essential intelligence to establish law enforcement priorities, formulate counterdrug policies, and allocate resources.

The report also aims to inform and educate the public about current drug threats.

Broader implications and future outlook

While synthetic opioids and methamphetamines are the most concerning threats, the NDTA also discusses trends for a range of illicit drugs, including cannabis, psychoactive substances, and illicit use of controlled prescription drugs.

The comprehensive assessment highlights the ongoing challenges and the need for continued vigilance and coordinated efforts to address the evolving drug landscape.

Anne Milgram emphasized the DEA’s commitment to public safety: “DEA will never stop working to protect our public safety, health, and national security.”

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