Operation Engage Philadelphia
As Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Philadelphia Field Division, I welcome you to Operation Engage!
Tragically, the staggering number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses has continued to devastate communities and families throughout the United States, with a severe impact on the Philadelphia region. In 2022, there were 108,659 drug overdose deaths in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data). Synthetic opioids, primarily illicit fentanyl, were the main cause of these deaths.
In 2022, Philadelphia had a total of 1,413 overdose deaths (Philadelphia Department of Public Health data), the highest number in the city’s history, which included a significant increase in Black and Hispanic overdose deaths. According to the data, 83% of the 2022 overdose deaths in Philadelphia included fentanyl, which has also been increasingly found in many other drugs, including stimulants (cocaine and methamphetamine), counterfeit pills of different classes, and others, with widespread availability. The data also revealed that 80% of the Philadelphia overdose deaths contained an opioid (primarily fentanyl) and a stimulant, which reflects the continuing trend of poly-drug use in the region.
As part of DEA’s community outreach efforts, the Philadelphia Field Division provides a comprehensive and holistic range of resources, programs, and services under Operation Engage. This grassroots approach to community service complements DEA’s enforcement efforts with drug education/prevention curriculum, online resources for all age groups and adults, after-school programs, special events, and many others. DEA recognizes the importance of a holistic strategy and collaboration with partners in all sectors to address the drug threats, related violence, and challenges facing our community. While the primary focus of DEA’s resources is on drug education/prevention, we fully support treatment/recovery and remain steadfast in the effort to eliminate the stigma of substance use disorder and related disorders.
I invite you and your families to explore the many resources, programs, and services under Operation Engage. I urge you to contact the Philadelphia Field Division Community Outreach Unit via telephone at 267-990-24 or via the staff email addresses listed on this website with any questions, requests for presentations, events, and/or partnership ideas and opportunities to further our collaborative efforts.
Below is a brief summary of Operation Engage components, outlined in this website:
Stakeholder/ Engagement: DEA partners with stakeholders in all sectors, sharing the latest information about drug trends, threats, and other pertinent information, working together on events/initiatives. Additional partnerships continue to be explored and sought.
Adult/Community Engagement: Includes town halls, parent workshops, coalition capacity building, community summits, and other special events, with a focus on communities in need and most affected by the drug threats and challenges, ensuring resources are available to all.
DEA Citizens Academy: DEA recognizes the importance of forging strong alliances with local communities and maintaining collaborative relationships with community leaders. The DEA Citizens Academy offers participants the opportunity to understand the world of federal drug law enforcement and the significant role DEA and the community plays in combating drug trafficking, substance misuse, and related violence.
School/Youth Engagement: In addition to offering curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school student age groups, DEA recognizes the need for sustained drug education, youth empowerment, positive and healthy activities, youth leadership, and other core principles through presentations, youth summits, teen academies, and special events, as well as educator workshops and training opportunities. Working with the DEA Educational Foundation, DEA provides various after-school programs to youth, to include dance, baseball, art, basketball, and soccer.
Workplace Engagement: Presentations, special events, and resources, including Operation Prevention workplace modules, are available to address the significant impact substance misuse has in the workplace.
Media Engagement: DEA recognizes the importance of promoting drug awareness/current threats, prevention/treatment/recovery resources, special events, documentaries, and others through all media platforms.
Toolkit for Local Engagement: The Operation Engage microsite is continuously populated with a holistic array of DEA and partner resources, programs, special events, training opportunities, and other relevant information for access to all members of the community.
SAC Thomas Hodnett
Top Local Drug Threat
Fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, is the Philadelphia area's top local drug threat, according to local officials. In 2022, Philadelphia had a total of 1,413 overdose deaths according to data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. In addition, 80% of the 2022 overdose deaths in Philadelphia included fentanyl. This powerful drug has also been found in cocaine, methamphetamine, counterfeit pills, and others.
Rise in Unintentional Overdoses
This chart examines unintentional overdose trends in Philadelphia through 2022. As the overdose crisis continues to worsen, Philadelphia and its people are impacted every day. Understanding evolving trends in overdose fatalities is pertinent to the development of culturally responsive resources, harm reduction materials, and public health initiatives that are necessary to prevent overdose deaths from occurring.
In 2022, there were 1,413 unintentional drug overdose deaths, an 11% increase from 2021. This increase was most prevalent among non-Hispanic Black individuals, for whom overdose deaths increased nearly 20% from 2021 (542) to 2022 (649). While most overdose deaths continued to involve opioids, deaths involving stimulants (both with and without the presence of opioids) increased 17% from 2021 (851) to 2022 (996).
Xylazine, reported as an adulterant in an increasing number of illicit drug mixtures, has also been detected in a growing number of overdose deaths. It is commonly encountered in combination with fentanyl but has also been detected in mixtures containing cocaine, heroin, and a variety of other drugs. However, xylazine is most frequently reported in combinations with two or more substances present. In addition to its presence in drug combinations, xylazine (often known as “tranq”) is used on its own, though this is less frequently reported. Limited scientific research has been conducted on the effects of xylazine on the human body, but anecdotal reports indicate that users experience effects similar to opioids. Xylazine can lead to depression of the central nervous system along with other adverse effects, as reported in scientific and medical journals; the presence of xylazine in illicit drug combinations and its detection in fatal overdoses may be more widespread than reported as a number of jurisdictions across the country may not include xylazine in forensic laboratory or toxicology testing.
DEA Fentanyl Seizures in 2023
In 2023, DEA seized more than 78.4 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. The 2023 seizures are equivalent to more than 388.8 million lethal doses of fentanyl.
In 2022, DEA seized more than 59.6 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and more than 13,300 pounds of fentanyl powder. The 2022 seizures are equivalent to more than 387.9 million lethal doses of fentanyl.
One Pill Can Kill
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns the American public of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans.
These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists. Read more.
See Related: Check out this Fake Pills factsheet.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse.
Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin.
Related: Learn more about fentanyl's effect on the nation from DEA's perspective in the National Drug Threat Assessment.
Go to FindTreatment.gov to search for general drug treatment facilities in your area. On this site, you can find facilities that offer various payment options (including free and no-cost care), youth treatment facilities, special programs for Veterans, plus more.
Otherwise, enter your zipcode below to find substance abuse treatment facilities in your area.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that rapidly binds to opioid receptors, blocking heroin from activating them. An appropriate dose of naloxone acts in less than 2 minutes and completely eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication to reverse an opioid overdose.
In Philadelphia, you can get naloxone through either your doctor's prescription or through the statewide standing order written for the general public by Dr. Rachel Levine. Many pharmacies have the order on file, but you can also download it here.
Overdose Free PA’s website has a naloxone locator. Just enter in your address or zip code to find the nearest clinic or pharmacy.
Prevention Point Philadelphia is a local, private nonprofit organization that promotes health and safety in communities affected by drug use and poverty.
The group provides training at their location on how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, throughout the year. Get more information on their website.
Within the standing order, there are also instructions on how to use both Narcan and injectable naloxone. See them here.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also has information about naloxone trainings and more on their website.
Here's a list of local organizations that provide services to the public regarding addiction, community empowerment, drug education and prevention, drug take back programs, recovery, and overall health and wellness.
ADAC offers children, youth and families healthy alternatives to substance use, violence and other risky behaviors. Visit ADAC's site or call 215-748-8727.
The Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc. (BCDAC) serves as the Single County Authority (SCA) for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention, intervention, and treatment and recovery support services.
Need info about proper medicine disposal? Visit their site to learn more about their medication collection program.
CADEkids delivers evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs at elementary, middle and high schools located in our region's most underserved neighborhoods. In 2019-20 (the most recent year of in-person service delivery due to the COVID pandemic), we served 7,000 students in 30 schools: 5,500 in our core prevention programs; and 1,500 through problem gambling awareness prevention lessons.
In September 2022, CADEkids became a SAP (Student Assistance Program) provider to the schools we serve. The SAP program is designed to assess students (grades K-12) for concerns related to drug and alcohol misuse, emotional dysregulation and behavioral/mental health issues.
2023 Red Ribbon Community Drug Prevention Award Nominee
Philly HopeLine is a free helpline sponsored by Uplift Center for Grieving Children and the School District of Philadelphia. It is staffed by Masters' level clinicians from Uplift, and is open to all School District of Philadelphia students & families.
If you feel lonely, stressed, sad, angry, or confused...
CALL OR TEXT FOR FREE 1-833-PHL-HOPE (1-833-745-4673)
Mondays – Fridays 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Holidays, Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Looking for prevention resources specifically for young people? Go to the teen-focused site www.justthinktwice.com/. Here, they'll be able to get facts about drug use and learn ways to live a drug-free life.
Furthermore, the DEA Educational Foundation is working with Operation Engage Philadelphia to provide after-school programing featuring dance, soccer and baseball.
Date: March 2, 2024
Time: 7:00-9:00pm EST
Hosted by NJCAA esports, watch eight teams from the Pennsylvania area battle it out while game casters deliver exciting play-by-plays. Special guests will present vital information about the dangers of fentanyl and DEA’s One Pill Can Kill campaign. Viewers can take a quiz by scanning the QR code above for a chance to win a gaming console or accessories!
Read more at https://www.dea.gov/gameover.
Watch the tournament at https://www.twitch.tv/onepillcankill.
Date: March 26-27, 2024
Time: 9:30am-12:00pm EST
Operation Engage Philadelphia partners with Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) to provide local substance misuse prevention coalitions and other identified key stakeholders with a rigorous, customized training experience to improve their capacity and effectiveness to address the substance misuse issues in their local communities.
Or use QR code in full flyer: https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2024-01/DEA_Philadelphia_2024_Capacity_Flyer.pdf
Check back for more detailed information as each event draws nearer.
April 24: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
May 12-18: Prevention Week
June: Faith Summit
June: Summer Camp prevention series
August: Family Summit
September: Citizens' Academy
October: Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31) and National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
November: Teen Academy
December: Blessed Bag Project
Connect With Us!
Please DO NOT submit tips using the feedback form on this page.
Use the official tips page (https://www.dea.gov/submit-tip) to report what appears to you as a possible violation of controlled substances laws and regulations.
Tips submitted to the feedback form below WILL NOT be addressed.
DEA. 16 November, 2020. Operation Engage Philadelphia. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia on 26 February, 2024
DEA. "Operation Engage Philadelphia."Drug Enforcement Agency, 16 November, 2020, https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia Accessed 26 February, 2024.
DEA. . Drug Enforcement Agency on DEA website. https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia. 16 November, 2020. Accessed 26 February, 2024.