4 Drug Threats to Consider for 2018

Over the last 10 years, drugs have taken a dramatic change for the worse. The heroin epidemic that started 10 years ago has unleashed new drugs that cause a significant officer safety threat to America’s law enforcement officers. To add to that epidemic, more states are legalizing marijuana, which has allowed entrepreneurs to produce more potent strains of marijuana than seen in past years. So, what drug threats will affect the U.S. in 2018? Let’s take a look at which drugs will cause the most issues for cops in 2018.

Fentanyl Use Will Continue to Surge to New, Higher Levels.

Mexican drug cartels have seen the value of fentanyl over heroin production. Fentanyl can be produced for as little as $3,300 per kilo and that kilo is the dosage equivalent of 50 kilos of heroin. That makes it easier on the Cartel’s supply chain and makes smuggling much easier. To make matters worse, a recent study showed that the availability of Naloxone makes it easier for addicts to take powerful drugs like Fentanyl since they now have a safety net. One participant in the study asked a fellow user to get his naloxone kit ready because, “He knew the opioid he was about to use had fentanyl in it and was going to use anyway.” This threat will pose a significant threat to officers in the U.S. and they will need training in fentanyl safety to handle this new threat.

Cocaine Use Will Grow

There are two reasons why cocaine use will grow in the U.S. in 2018. One reason is that all opiate epidemics are followed by surges in stimulant use. This is a pattern that has been in the U.S. in the past and if history is a predictor of the future, then we can anticipate this to happen again. The second reason is that there is an increase in cocaine production in Columbia, which is the U.S.’s number one supplier of cocaine. The increase in cocaine production is so dramatic that we have not seen an increase like this in 20 years. The reason for the increase in production is a pending peace accord with Columbia’s rebel group “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia”, or FARC. As part of the peace accord, FARC will renounce drug trafficking and farmers will receive subsidies from the government to replace their coca fields with traditional crops. Unfortunately, these farmers are increasing their production so that they can receive more money from the government once the subsidies take effect.

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New Synthetic Drug Production Will Continue to Grow

These new drugs go by several names: Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), research chemicals (RC), designer drugs or “herbal highs.” These terms have all been used to describe drugs that were produced in a laboratory to skirt conventional laws. The Controlled Substances Act (or the U.S.’s drug law) is not very nimble. A good example is Florida’s past problem with “Flakka.” As that drug ravaged Florida, the DEA placed it in schedule I (no medical necessity) and worked with China to make it illegal to manufacture it there. However, chemists in China and elsewhere picked new similar replacements to take up the slack. The new drugs that replaced Flakka were not listed in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and were much more difficult to prosecute under the “Analog Law”. Chinese drug manufacturers have become very adept at skirting our laws to produce these new synthetic drugs. Another good example is the drug U47700, also known as “Pink.” This is a synthetic opioid that has been linked to numerous overdose deaths around the U.S. and was legal until the DEA placed it into schedule I of the CSA. Recently, I have been seeing advertisements online for U48800 and U49900. These are slight variations of the original U47700 and skirt our CSA.

Marijuana Production and Use Will Grow

OK, this is no surprise to most cops. As more and more states allow recreational use of marijuana, it will adversely affect those states that choose to keep marijuana illegal. As an example, California produced 13.5 million pounds of marijuana last year, but only consumed 2.5 million pounds. That means that Californians produced 5 times more marijuana than it used. Obviously, the rest is going to other states, including those that wish to remain marijuana free. With the freedom of recreational marijuana use brings the innovation of making marijuana more potent as well as bringing new marijuana products to the market.

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The biggest threat to America right now is the surge in synthetic drug production. These new synthetic drugs, which includes fentanyl and its analogs, will continue to skirt the CSA and cause damage in our communities. In just the past few weeks, the DEA said it will place all fentanyl analogs into the CSA, which was refreshing to hear. However, there are many other synthetic drugs that threaten our country and are not listed in the CSA. The demand for these drugs continues to grow and our laws are making it easy for drug users to go undetected and unabated.

Author: Keith Graves
Keith is a retired Police Sergeant and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. Keith was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith teaches both the DRE course and the Drug Abuse Recognition Course and has taught at the Police Academy. He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has held other assignments besides narcotics including Training Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, COPPS Officer, Traffic Officer, and 20 years as a SWAT Team member and Sniper Team Leader. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith earned a BA in Business Management from Saint Mary's College of California and a MA in Criminal Justice. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry.

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