(UnitedVoice.com) – Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical drug used to treat severe pain in patients with advanced stages of cancer and other serious conditions. The synthetic opioid is as much as 100 times as potent as morphine, making illegally manufactured supplies popular with illicit users for its heroin-like effects. Addicts mix it with other drugs like cocaine to produce a combined effect or with heroin and quaaludes to enhance them.
The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse show an alarming increase in deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs. They exclude methadone from those figures.
With nearly 71,000 overdose deaths involving those opioids in 2021, the fatality rates increased 22% year-on-year. Stunningly, over eight years, the rate of death increased 23 times.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) recently unveiled its plan to tackle this deadly threat.
DHS Unveils Its “First-Ever” Plan To Tackle Fentanyl Overdoses
On September 19, the HSI announced the launch of its “first-ever” strategy to combat the rise of illicit opioids entering the country. The HSI’s acting executive associate director, Steve Francis, noted that the agency “seized more than 54,000 lbs of fentanyl and interdicted over 2.2 million lbs of synthetic… chemicals” used to produce the illicit drug.
However, Francis warned that fatal overdoses “continue to plague [the] country.” He explained that his agency needed to push back against the elements enabling the crisis, like weapons smuggling, criminal gang activity, cybercrime, and illicit financing.
The new HSI strategy’s primary elements fall into four categories:
- Attacking the criminal elements enabling the rise of illicit opioid trafficking;
- Reducing the domestic supply of those illegal drugs;
- Decreasing the supply of illicit opioids internationally;
- Conducting outreach with the private sector.
The HSI is expanding its Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) program to achieve those goals. TCIU operations involve US law enforcement authorities and host country officials like prosecutors, investigators, immigration officers, and customs authorities.
Partnering With Host Countries
The TCIUs plan to put host country officials through a rigorous vetting process. HSI officials aim to enhance the host countries’ ability to effectively investigate and prosecute individuals in groups involved in transnational criminal activity within their borders. Theoretically, that should result in the disruption of criminal enterprises operating within the United States.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised the new strategy. He noted that it would help align the department’s field and intelligence operations to “keep fentanyl off the streets” and bring criminal organizations and “ruthless” drug cartels to justice. HSI Executive Associate Director Katrina Berger echoed that sentiment. She characterized the new strategy as a “bold and innovative” plan to address the opioid crisis.
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