On Tuesday, a government report confirmed that the country of Mexico is the “dominant source” of fentanyl that is trafficked into the United States, a leading cause of death in the country.
CNN reports that the survey comes from the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, a coalition of federal officials and lawmakers. In its report, the commission warns that more Americans will die from fentanyl overdoses and the broader opioid crisis if more action is not taken immediately.
“This is one of our most-pressing national security, law enforcement, and public health challenges,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Congressman David Trone (R-Md.), the co-chairs of the commission, in a joint statement following the release of the report. “And we must do more as a nation and a government to protect our most precious resource ― American lives.”
The report determined that of the roughly 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States from June 2020 to May 2021, about two-thirds were caused by fentanyl and synthetic opioids. The age group most heavily affected by this is the 18-45 demographic. The report notes that fentanyl in particular has been the “primary driver” of the opioid epidemic, due in large part to its potency; it is 50 percent more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is also often produced in the forms of small counterfeit tablets, sometimes bearing the names of more well-known brands such as Adderall and Xanax, in order to avoid detection and provide for more inconspicuous use.
The previous dominant source of fentanyl seized by authorities, from 2014 to 2019, was China. But since 2020, Mexico has surpassed China and taken the top spot. This development is due in large part to the relative ease with which drug traffickers can bring their products across the southern border, as a result of the open-border policies of the Biden Administration.
If action is not taken soon, the report warns, then the U.S. “will continue to see the number of overdoses rise as markets for illicit drugs evolve, respond, and produce an even wider variety of synthetic opioids, and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) diversify the presence of synthetic opioids in nonopioid drugs and into pills to expand the market beyond traditional opioid users.”
Among the commission’s recommendations was the delegation of greater authority to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, so that it could be the “central authority for policymaking and interagency coordination on all drug control policy matters,” including elevating its director to a Cabinet-level role.
In recent years, the opioid crisis has been acknowledged by lawmakers from both parties. Both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden have taken measures to address the crisis, with President Trump declaring it to be a national public health emergency in 2017 and creating the commission as part of the annual defense authorization bill. Biden similarly declared all drug trafficking a national emergency, and implemented sanctions against known foreign drug traffickers.