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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: DEA Public Affairs (202) 307-7977

DEA releases 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment

Prescription opioid abuse poses deadly threat

WASHINGTON — DEA Acting Administrator Robert Patterson today announced results of the 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), which outlines the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs.

“This report underscores the scope and magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States,” said Acting Administrator Patterson. “The information in the report represents data gathered over the past year, but of critical importance is the real time information we get every day from our partners. It has never been a more important time to use all the tools at our disposal to fight this epidemic, and we must remain steadfast in our mission to combat all dangerous drugs of abuse.”

Over the past 10 years, the drug landscape in the United States has shifted, with the opioid threat — including controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, and heroin — reaching epidemic levels and impacting significant portions of the United States. While the current opioid crisis has received significant attention, other drugs of abuse remain prevalent. These include methamphetamine, cocaine, new psychoactive substances (NPS), and marijuana. In addition, drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States; they are currently at their highest ever recorded level and, every year since 2011, have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide.

2017 NDTA findings of note:

  • CPDs have been linked to the largest number of overdose deaths of any illicit drug class since 2001. Although abuse has lessened in some areas, CPDs are still used by more people than cocaine, heroin, MDMA, methamphetamine, and PCP combined.
  • Heroin poses a serious public health and safety threat to the United States. Overdose deaths, already at high levels, continue to rise. The increased mixing of heroin with analogues of the highly-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has exacerbated this situation.
  • Fentanyl is increasingly mixed with diluents and sold as heroin, often with no heroin present in the product. Fentanyl also continues to be made more widely available in the form of counterfeit prescription pills marketed for illicit street sales.
  • The methamphetamine threat has remained prevalent. Inbound seizures of methamphetamine from Mexico have increased every year since 2010, but domestic production has declined.
  • The cocaine threat continues to rebound. Cocaine availability and use have increased significantly, partially due to record increases in coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia, the primary source for the cocaine market in the United States.
  • NPS, manmade products that mimic the effects of controlled substances, continue to be a challenge. The NPS most commonly abused in the United States include synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones, which are available from China and packaged into a variety of forms domestically. Traffickers continue to modify NPS’ chemical formulas to create new substances to circumvent regulations and expand their market.
  • Marijuana production in the United States has increased and the national discussion surrounding marijuana enforcement efforts continues to evolve. User demand for concentrated forms of marijuana has continued.
  • Mexican cartels remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States. The cartels are the principal wholesale drug sources for domestic gangs responsible for street-level distribution. The Sinaloa Cartel maintains the most expansive footprint in the United States while the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has increased its presence across the United States.

The National Drug Threat Assessment provides a yearly assessment of the many challenges local 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 the hundreds of synthetic drugs.

The assessment factors in information from many data sources such as drug seizures, drug purity, laboratory analyses, information on the involvement of organized criminal groups, and survey data provided to DEA by 5,155 state and local law enforcement agencies across the country.

The National Drug Threat Assessment can be accessed at


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