The Drugs Threatening America

Every year, the DEA publishes a National Drug Threat Assessment that lists what drugs caused issues in the United States. The document is a long read, so here are the highlights for you:

Drug Overdoses are Skyrocketing

  • Controlled Prescription Drugs (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.

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  • 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.

Stimulant Threats

  • 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.

Synthetic Drugs

  • Synthetic drugs, manmade products that mimic the effects of controlled substances, continue to be a challenge. The synthetic drugs most commonly abused in the United States include synthetic cannabinoids (spice) and cathinones (bath salts), which are available from China and packaged into a variety of forms domestically. Traffickers continue to modify synthetic drug chemical formulas to create new substances to circumvent regulations and expand their market.
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Marijuana Threats

  • 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.


Author: Keith Graves
<p>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.</p>

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