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Drug Enforcement Administration

DEA Headquarters

November 04, 2015

Contact: National Media Affairs Office

Phone Number: (202) 307-7977

DEA Releases 2015 Drug Threat Assessment: Heroin And Painkiller Abuse Continue To Concern

Mexican drug traffickers remain most significant criminal drug threat to the United States

WASHINGTON - DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg today announced results from the 2015 National Drug Threat (NDTA), which found that drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, ahead of deaths from motor vehicle accidents and firearms.  In 2013, more than 46,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose and more than half of those were caused by prescription painkillers and heroin.

"Sadly this report confirms what we’ve known for some time: drug abuse is ending too many lives too soon and destroying families and communities,” Rosenberg said. “We must reach young people at an even earlier age and teach them about its many dangers and horrors.”

The 2015 NDTA also found that Mexican transnational criminal organizations are the biggest criminal drug threat to the United States, and are the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. These groups are responsible for much of the extreme violence seen in Mexico, as they battle for turf and attack public officials and innocent civilians.  Here in the U.S., affiliated and violent gangs are a significant threat to the safety and security of our communities. They profit by buying drugs from regional Mexican criminal affiliates and then supply American communities with these dangerous drugs.  
Other 2015 NDTA findings:

  • Heroin availability is up across the country, as are abusers, overdoses, and overdose deaths. A just released survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) showed a 51% increase between 2013 and 2014 in the number of current heroin (people who reported using heroin within the last 30 days).  Heroin seizure amounts in the U.S. have nearly doubled since 2010, from 2,763 kilograms to 5,013 kilograms in 2014.
  • Since 2002, prescription drug deaths have outpaced those of cocaine and heroin combined. Abuse of controlled prescription drugs is higher than that of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and PCP combined.
  • Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 25 to 40 times more potent than heroin, has caused more than 700 deaths in the U.S. between late 2013 and early 2015. Fentanyl is sometimes added to heroin batches, or sold by itself as heroin, unknown to the user.
  • Synthetic designer drugs from China continue to wreak havoc in the United States, in particular synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones.

The National Drug Threat Assessment provides an up-to-date look at the many challenges local communities face related to drug abuse and drug trafficking. Highlights in the report include drug abuse and trafficking trends for drugs such as heroin, prescription drugs, and the hundreds of synthetic drugs manufactured outside the U.S. and imported into this country.

The assessment factors in information from a host of data sources such as drug arrests, drug purity, laboratory analyses, information on the involvement of organized criminal groups, and survey data provided to DEA by 1,105 state and local law enforcement agencies across the country.

The National Drug Threat Assessment document can be downloaded at: .

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