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FBI’s Comey: Mexican drug cartels fueling US heroin epidemic

March 4, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
FBI’s Comey: Mexican drug cartels fueling US heroin epidemic

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Mexican drug cartels are feeding the heroin epidemic that is taking over the U.S., according to the director of the FBI.

As he addressed an audience of residents and public safety officials at an opioid summit at Glenn Allen High School in Virginia on Wednesday, James Comey said that drug cartels are proceeding to immerse the country with surges of “highly, highly pure” heroin.

The FBI chief, speaking beside Drug Enforcement Administration acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg, portrayed the picture of a national drug crisis that’s infiltrating communities of all shapes and sizes. Fighting it necessitates a complex strategy that involves traditional law enforcement and market economics.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this,” Comey stated.

Cartels have overtaken the heroin market in the U.S. with an increasingly powerful product, and are selling it at low prices to seize demand, Comey explained. He informed the audience that in some cases, traffickers have even sold their heroin at a loss to increase their market share.

The heroin epidemic has worsened despite U.S. record heroin seizures made by U.S. authorities

To cut overhead costs and increase earnings, officials say that the cartels are relying less on heroin trafficking from South America and are instead increasing production in Mexico.

The latest statistics from the DEA indicate dramatic increases in Mexican opium poppy agriculture.

Production rose 160% between 2013 to 2014, DEA estimates revealed. That trend reportedly continued from 2014 to 2015 with a 64% increase in opium poppy growth in Mexico.

Librarians raise concerns over the surge of heroin overdose cases in libraries across the U.S.

“Drug trafficking is a business, when you reduce costs of transportation, you’re able to lower the price and increase purity,” Comey continued.

At the heart of the problem, according to the FBI and DEA, is the extensive abuse of painkillers, like oxycodone, which can serve as a pipeline to heroin use.

Rosenberg noted that four out of five heroin addicts begin with pills.

FBI Director James Comey discussed the heroin crisis at Glen Allen High School in Virginia on Wednesday

“Sometimes we use words like ‘epidemic,’ ‘unprecedented,’ or ‘historical’ in ways that are not accurate,” Rosenberg added. “This is unprecedented. This is an epidemic.”

Data reveal that Rosenberg’s statement is not an exaggeration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported prescription and illicit opioids – like heroin – accounted for 33,091 fatal overdoses in 2015. That number, which is part of the most recent U.S. overdose data from the CDC, indicates a quadrupling from 1999.

During Wednesday’s opioid summit on Wednesday, one district health official said that preceding 2016 data for the Commonwealth of Virginia show a 33% rise in overdose deaths compared to 2015.

Dealers are shipping fentanyl from China for fraction of the cost of heroin

A contributory factor behind the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths, according to Rosenberg, is the pervasiveness of fentanyl. The synthetic opioid, which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and up to 50 times more potent than heroin, has erupted in popularity in recent years, prompting the director of the DEA to refer to it as “a game changer.”

That spike in demand can be attributed to its high potency and its low cost, compared to pure heroin and prescription drugs.

The agency’s forensic laboratory system reported a tremendous 1,392% increase in fentanyl conflicts from 2013 to 2015.

And officials are warning that drug traffickers are spiking heroin and knockoff painkillers with the deadly synthetic, without the knowledge of the consumer.

Rosenberg added that the problem is causing law enforcement agencies to reconsider protocols on managing illicit substances that may be or may include fentanyl. If it were to come into contact with skin, a concentrated dose of fentanyl, or one of its derivatives, could be lethal.

If it were to come into contact with skin, a concentrated dose of fentanyl, or one of its derivatives, could be lethal.

To first beat the heroin epidemic, Comey and Rosenberg said that the FBI and DEA’s enforcement approach seeks to crush the international cartels and, in doing so, increase the cost of illegal drugs for consumers.

“Our job is to crack down on the supply, literally, to be very blunt, to drive up the price to make it less attractive for people who are addicted to pills to move to heroin,” Comey said.

However, many experts have criticized the U.S. government’s entire approach to the war on drugs in correlation with the heroin epidemic.

“The U.S. has a level of complicity, Mexican drug cartels only exist because of the high demand for drugs in the country,” says Michael Falzarano, senior security analyst for JammedUp News.

He maintains that the U.S. policy with regards to the War on Drugs has been a systemic failure, and has achieved little to diminish the immense appetite for heroin in the U.S.

“Failure to address the issue of high demand, which is the root cause, will not solve this epidemic,”  Falzarano added. “Comey is correct, you can’t arrest our way out of this, but unless there is an intrinsic shift in policy to reduce the high demand of heroin in the U.S., the epidemic will continue to worsen, because as long as a thriving market exists, there will never be a shortage of suppliers.”

 

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