According to the U.S. Surgeon General, an American dies every 19 minutes from an opioid or heroin overdose. New Jersey’s drug overdose death rate increased by almost 22 percent between 2014 and 2015. There was a 30 percent increase in heroin deaths over the previous year and triple the number of deaths caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Additionally, the CDC reports that in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.
Heroin consumed in the US comes mainly from Afghanistan and Mexico, members of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) have stated.
INCB’s 2015 report also revealed that exporters of the vast amount of opium planted in Afghanistan have their eyes set on distribution in the US’s growing market, similar to heroin trafficked from Mexico.
“In different parts of the United States there has been a resurgence in the consumption of heroin, and Afghan heroin has an enormous production. They have more than 200,000 hectares dedicated to the production of heroin in Afghanistan,” Alejandro Mohar, a member of the INCB, told a news conference.
“The northern area of North America, Canada, is turning into one of the areas of greatest reception. Likewise, we know a great production of heroin is coming from Mexico, and now Afghanistan is looking for the market of the United States for the distribution and consumption of heroin,” Mohar added.
Governor Christie’s Position: Governor Chris Christie signed Executive Order 219 declaring the opioid epidemic a public health crisis in New Jersey on January 17, 2017. The action requires the marshaling of all appropriate resources to combat its harmful effects on state citizens.
“We must take aggressive action to get this insidious crisis under control so I am calling together all resources of state government in order to save lives,” said Governor Christie. “The human cost of this epidemic is incalculable, impacting every part of life in New Jersey, affecting our education system, our health care system, public safety and the financial security of every person it touches.”
Trump’s Position: “We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in,” Trump told law enforcement professionals of the Major Cities Chiefs Association last Wednesday. “We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.”
Last Thursday, Trump backed up his tough talk with action as, at the Oval Office swearing in of Attorney General Jeff Session, he rolled out three executive orders he said were “designed to restore safety in America,” but which appear to signal an increasingly authoritarian response to crime, drugs, and discontent with policing practices.
The first, which Trump said would “reduce crime and restore public safety,” orders Sessions to create a new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Policy, which will come up with “strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime,” propose legislation to implement them, and submit a report to the president within a year.
The second, regarding “transnational criminal organizations and preventing drug trafficking,” directs various federal law enforcement agencies to “increase intelligence sharing” and orders an already existing interagency working group to submit a report to Trump within four months describing progress made in combating the cartels, “along with any recommended actions for dismantling them.”
“I’m directing Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people,” Trump said Thursday.
The third directs the Justice Department to use federal law to prosecute people who commit crimes against police officers, even though they already face universally severe penalties under existing state laws.
Is this enough to reverse heroin’s grip on Americans? Well, it’s a start.