DEA: Mexican Criminal Organizations Pose Greatest 'Drug Threat to the United States'

Susan Jones | November 2, 2018 | 11:03am EDT
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Medical workers and police treat a woman who has overdosed on heroin in Warren, Ohio. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

( - Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) "remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them," according to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, released today by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The Sinaloa Cartel maintains the most expansive footprint in the United States, while Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion’s (CJNG) domestic presence has significantly expanded in the past few years."

In speeches, in tweets and at campaign rallies, President Trump continues to warn about the danger of drugs and traffickers flowing across the unsecured Southwest border.

Among the key 2018 NDTA findings:

-- Controlled prescription drugs remain responsible for the largest number of overdose deaths of any illicit drug class since 2001. These drugs are the second most commonly abused substance. Traffickers are now disguising other opioids as controlled prescription drugs to gain access to this market.

-- Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths almost doubled between 2013 and 2016. This has been exacerbated by the increased adulteration of heroin with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Heroin available in U.S. markets is primarily sourced from Mexico, where opium poppy cultivation and heroin production have both increased significantly in recent years.

-- Of all opioids, the abuse of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has led to the greatest number of deaths in the United States. Fentanyl is increasingly available in the form of counterfeit prescription pills marketed for illicit street sales, and also sold by traffickers on its own, without the presence of other drugs.

-- In 2017, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in nearly 30,000 deaths, and from 2016-2017, Mexican heroin production grew by 37 percent. Mexican cartels continue to make large quantities of cheap methamphetamine and deliver it to the United States through the Southern border. Seizures at the border increased from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 pounds thus far in 2018.

-- Mexican transnational criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States. The cartels are the principal wholesale drug sources for domestic gangs responsible for street-level distribution.

-- National and neighborhood-based street gangs and prison gangs continue to dominate the market for the street sales and distribution of illicit drugs in their respective territories throughout the country. Drug trafficking remains the major income source for gangs.

-- Marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.

-- National and neighborhood-based street gangs and prison gangs continue to dominate the market for the street-sales and distribution of illicit drugs in their respective territories throughout the country. Struggle for control of these lucrative drug trafficking territories continues to be the largest factor fueling the street-gang violence facing local communities.

The DEA said illicit drugs, as well as the transnational and domestic criminal organizations that traffic them, continue to represent significant threats to public health, law enforcement, and national security in the United States.

“This report underscores the scope and magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States,” said Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “The information in the report represents data and critical intelligence from our law enforcement partners that was gathered over the past year."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 72,287 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, an increase of about 10 percent from the prior year.

The full report can be found here.

'Can't let drugs come in'

As President Trump warned in a speech yesterday:

Contained within this giant flow of illegal migration to our Southwest border is the movement of illicit and deadly narcotics.

It's in the Southwest, most of it comes in. Nearly 100 percent of heroin in the United States enters through the southern border. Think of that, 100 percent, almost, of heroin comes in through the southern border along with roughly 90 percent of cocaine and the majority of meth and a substantial portion of the ultra-lethal fentanyl killing our youth.

Fentanyl is killing our youth. These drugs destroy the lives and kill much more than 70,000 Americans every single year, and the number goes up, goes up and up and up because we are so foolish with our laws that we allow this to happen.

A death toll equivalent of the size of an entire American city every year, the current influx if not halted threatens to overwhelm our immigration system in our communities and poses unacceptable dangers to the entire nation.

Have to have our borders. Can't let drugs come in.

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