Fentanyl is an opioid pain reliever prescribed to individuals with terminal diseases like cancer. Because of its similar effects to heroin, illicit users are drawn to the synthetic opioid despite its extreme potency (up to 100 times that of morphine). Users often combine it with other drugs to boost their effects, such as cocaine, heroin, or Quaaludes.
An alarming rise in mortality from synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs has been shown in recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They do not include methadone in their calculations.
In 2021, the mortality toll from opioid overdoses rose by 22 percent, to approximately 71 thousand. Incredibly, the mortality rate skyrocketed 23 times in just eight years.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) recently unveiled its plan to tackle this deadly threat.
DHS Unveils Its “First-Ever” Plan To Tackle Fentanyl Overdoses
The HSI released its “first-ever” strategy on September 19 to tackle the increase of illegal opioids entering the country. According to Steve Francis, acting executive associate director of the HSI, “over 2.2 million lbs of synthetic… chemicals” were intercepted and “more than 54,000 lbs of fentanyl” was recovered.
Overdose deaths “continue to plague [the] country,” Francis said. He said his organization had to combat things like arms smuggling, gang violence, cybercrime, and illegal funding that were fueling the situation.
The four main components of the new HSI strategy are:
- Attacking the criminal elements enabling the rise of illicit opioid trafficking;
- Reducing the domestic supply of those illegal drugs;
- Decreasing the supply of illicit opioids internationally;
- Conducting outreach with the private sector.
The HSI is increasing its Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) initiative to accomplish these aims. Prosecutors, investigators, immigration officers, and customs officials from both the United States and the host country are involved in TCIU operations.
Partnering With Host Countries
The TCIUs intend to conduct extensive background checks on officials from the host countries. The goal of HSI personnel working in host countries is to improve the countries’ capacity to investigate and prosecute transnational criminal organizations. As a result, criminal organizations in the United States should be hampered, at least in theory.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the DHS secretary, lauded the new approach. To “keep fentanyl off the streets” and bring down criminal groups and “ruthless” drug cartels, he said this will help coordinate the department’s field and intelligence operations. The Executive Associate Director of HSI, Katrina Berger, agreed. She said the new approach was “bold and innovative” and will help combat the drug epidemic.