DEA Releases 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment
LOS ANGELES – DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans today announced the release of the 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment, DEA’s annual publication outlining the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs.
“This year’s report shows the harsh reality of the drug threats facing communities across the United States,” said Acting Administrator Evans. “While the COVID-19 pandemic plagues this nation, so, too, do transnational criminal organizations and violent street gangs, adjusting to pandemic restrictions to flood our communities with dangerous drugs. DEA and our local, state, and federal partners continue to adapt to the ever changing landscape, remaining focused on the current threats and looking to the horizon for emerging threats. We will always defend the American people against illicit substances that ruin lives, devastate families, and destroy communities.”
“Unfortunately, no community in the U.S. is untouched by the current statistics or drug threats outlined in this report,” said Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner. “Illicit drugs, especially opioids, have taken too many lives and ripped through too many families and communities. We recognize the changing drug climate and continue to persistently pursue drug trafficking organizations that prey on individuals and perpetuate the cycle of substance abuse.”
Drugs trends in the United States continue to evolve. Although progress has been made in reducing the smuggling of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China following the DEA’s 2018 emergency scheduling action of fentanyl related substances and China’s enactment of fentanyl-class controls in May 2019, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have increased production causing more fentanyl to flow across our border. The opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country. Meanwhile, the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach, with traffickers selling increasing amounts outside of traditional markets.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the twelve-month period ending in July of 2020, a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses.
2020 NDTA findings of note:
• Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States with Los Angeles being one of their major transshipment points.
• Illicit fentanyl is one of the primary drugs fueling the epidemic of overdose deaths in the United States, while heroin and prescription opioids remain significant challenges to public health and law enforcement.
• Mexican cartels are increasingly responsible for producing and supplying fentanyl to the U.S. market. China remains a key source of supply for the precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels use to produce the large amounts of fentanyl they are smuggling into the United States.
• Drug-poisoning deaths and seizures involving methamphetamine have risen sharply as Mexican TCOs increase the drug’s availability and expand the domestic market.
• Constraints associated with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic – daily travel restrictions, U.S. border closings, closure of nonessential businesses, and broad shelter-in-place orders – temporarily posed new challenges to criminal organizations’ movement of drugs during the first half of 2020.
• In 2019, California had more fentanyl seized than any other state.
• In 2019, California, Ohio, and Texas reported the highest dollar amounts in bulk cash seizures for a combined total of $131,039,840 USC. In the first six months of 2020, California, New York, and Texas accounted for 39 percent of the bulk cash seized. Border restrictions between the United States and Mexico, brought on due to the pandemic, have increased the difficulty of transporting loads of bulk currency from the United States across the SWB into Mexico. As a result, large amounts of U.S. currency are being held along the U.S. side, awaiting transport to Mexico.
• California had the second greatest amount of cocaine seized in 2019 due to the proximity of the Southwest Border (SWB) and high-traffic international airports and seaports.
• DEA Field Divisions seized 6,951 kilograms of heroin in 2019, a 30 percent increase from 2018, with the largest amounts of heroin seized in Texas, California, Arizona, and New York. California, Texas and Arizona are all major entry points for heroin sourced from Mexico and also serve as transshipment points for the onward movement of heroin to domestic markets throughout the United States.
• California leads the U.S. in methamphetamine conversion labs. Methamphetamine conversion laboratories are used to convert powder methamphetamine into crystal methamphetamine or to recrystallize methamphetamine in solution back into crystal methamphetamine.
• In 2019, 26 percent of illicit fentanyl tablets contained a potential lethal dose of fentanyl which increased from 14 percent and 10 percent the two years prior.
The National Drug Threat Assessment provides a yearly assessment of the challenges communities face related to drug abuse and drug trafficking. Highlights in the report include usage and trafficking trends for drugs such as prescription drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and hundreds of synthetic drugs. New to this year’s report is the effect of COVID-19 during the first part of 2020.
The assessment gathers information from many data sources such as drug investigations and seizures, drug purity, laboratory analysis, information on transnational and domestic criminal groups, and U.S. government drug cultivation and production estimates.
The National Drug Threat Assessment is available at www.dea.gov/documents/2021/03/02/2020-national-drug-threat-assessment
Los Angeles Field Division is the 2nd largest division in DEA and responsible for the seven largest counties in Southern California—Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, as well as the states of Nevada (Las Vegas/Reno), and Hawaii (Oahu/Maui), and the U. S. Territories of Guam and Saipan.