Drug Enforcement Administration National Drug Threat Assessment 2024

The following text is the Executive Summary from the Drug Enforcement Administration National Drug Threat Assessment 2024. See the full report here.

Fentanyl1 is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced, killing nearly 38,000 Americans in the first six months of 2023 alone. Fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, like methamphetamine, are responsible for nearly all of the fatal drug overdoses and poisonings in our country.2 In pill form, fentanyl is made to resemble a genuine prescription drug tablet, with potentially fatal outcomes for users who take a pill from someone other than a doctor or pharmacist. Users of other illegal drugs risk taking already dangerous drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine laced or replaced with powder fentanyl. Synthetic drugs have transformed not only the drug landscape in the United States, with deadly consequences to public health and safety; synthetic drugs have also transformed the criminal landscape in the United States, as the drug cartels who make these drugs reap huge profits from their sale. Mexican cartels profit by producing synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) and methamphetamine (a synthetic stimulant), that are not subject to the same production challenges astraditional plant-based drugs like cocaine and heroin– such as weather, crop cycles, or government eradication efforts. Synthetic drugs pose an increasing threat to U.S. communities because they can bemadeanywhere,atany time, given the required chemicals and equipment and basic know-how. Health officials, regulators, and law enforcement are constantly challenged to quickly identify and act against the fentanyl threat, and the threat of new synthetic drugs appearing on the market. The deadly reach of the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels into U.S. communities is extended by the wholesale-level traffickers and street dealers bringing the cartels’ drugs to market, sometimes creating their own deadly drug mixtures, and exploiting social media and messaging applications to advertise and sell to customers. TheSinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (also known as CJNG or the Jalisco Cartel) are the main criminal organizations in Mexico, and the most dangerous. They control clandestine drug production sites and transportation routes inside Mexico and smuggling corridors into the United States and maintain large network “hubs” in U.S. cities along the Southwest Border and other key locations across the United States. The Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are called “transnational criminal organizations” because they are not just drug manufacturers and traffickers; they are organized crime groups, involved in arms trafficking, moneylaundering, migrant smuggling, sex trafficking, bribery, extortion, and a host of other crimes– and have aglobal reach extending into strategic transportation zones and profitable drug markets in Europe,Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

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