5 Take Home Points from the DEA's Drug Threat Assessment

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) report sheds light on the extent that illicit and prescription drugs affect the United States.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) report sheds light on the extent that illicit and prescription drugs affect the United States. The report includes information from federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, among others. It is alarming that in 2014, approximately 129 people died every day due to drug poisoning.1 Since 2009, drug poisoning deaths have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide.1 It is important to educate patients on the dangers of abusing these substances.

Check out these 5 take home points from the national report to help you stay up-to-date with the growing drug abuse epidemic:

  • Prescription controlled substance abuse has declined.

Data indicate that prescription controlled substance abuse has declined. However, abuse of controlled substances is still more than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA, and PCP combined. Evidence suggests that prescription drug monitoring programs as well as drug disposal programs and law enforcement efforts have helped to decrease prescription drug abuse and diversion. However, with the decrease in availability of controlled substances, there has been a shift to heroin abuse. Unfortunately, this has introduced a major public health threat to the United States.

  • Heroin abuse is on the rise.

Heroin-related overdose deaths are rising at a drastic rate in the United States, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. In fact, heroin overdose deaths more than tripled in 4 years, resulting in 10,574 deaths in 2014.1 The DEA recognizes the severity of this public health threat, and has created the Heroin 360 Strategy to prevent heroin abuse and trafficking.

  • Counterfeit fentanyl is causing overdose related deaths.

Illicit fentanyl is being manufactured in Mexico and China and smuggled into the United States. Additionally, it is commonly being laced with heroin and pressed into pills leading to an increase in overdose deaths. Adverse events associated with fentanyl abuse include nausea, fainting, seizures, coma, respiratory depression, and death.

  • Methamphetamine is readily available in the United States.

Data indicate that most of the methamphetamine production is occurring in Mexico and being smuggled into the United States. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) has helped to decrease the production of methamphetamine in the United States. The CMEA regulates the sale of OTC pseudoephedrine products and includes daily and 30 day purchase restrictions. Additionally, these products must be kept behind the counter and ID verification and employee training is required. The NDTA data show that methamphetamine was reported to be the greatest threat in the Southwest region of the United States.

  • New psychoactive substances (NPS) are posing a threat to the United States.

NPS include substances such as synthetic cannabinoids that are sprayed onto dried plant material and smoked and synthetic cathinones, which are powder or crystalline drugs that are snorted or orally ingested. These products are typically sold in gas stations, convenience stores, and smoke shops. The DEA conducted an operation in New York City in 2015 known as Jinn-Ger Spice, which resulted in the seizure of 500,000 packets of synthetic cannabinoids from 90 retail stores and 7 warehouses.1


  • Drug Enforcement Administration. 2016 national drug threat assessment. DEA website. https://www.dea.gov/resource-center/2016%20NDTA%20Summary.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2016.