The U.S. Drug enforcement Administration (DEA) recently issued a stark report concerning the opioids epidemic in the United States. The report, published by the Associated Press (AP), indicated 200 people died each day in 2017. The shocking number of opioid deaths suggests the U.S. has a horrid social problem on its hands.

Furthermore, preliminary figures show more than 72,000 people died in 2017 from drug overdoses across the country, According to the AP, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said overdose deaths, while still slowly rising, were beginning to level off, citing figures from late last year and early 2018. 

The DEA National Drug Threat Assessment reports that heroin, fentanyl and other opioids continue to be the highest drug threat in the country. But federal officials are concerned that methamphetamine and cocaine are being seen at much higher levels in areas that haven’t historically been hot spots for those drugs.

The DEA is also worried that people are exploiting marijuana legalization to traffic cannabis into the illicit market or to states that don’t have medicinal or recreational-use laws, according to the report. 

The preliminary data show 49,060 people died from opioid-related overdose deaths, a rise from reported 42,249 opioid overdose deaths in 2016. Fatal heroin overdose rose nationwide between 2015 and 2016, with a nearly 25 percent increase in the Northeast and more than 22 percent in the South. 

Most of the heroin sold in the U.S. is being trafficked from Mexico, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seize the most amount of heroin along the Mexico border near San Diego. Fentanyl and other related opioids, which tend to be cheaper and much more potent that heroin, remain one of the biggest concerns for federal drug agents. 

The DEA reported China is the main source of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that have been flooding the U.S. market. China has pushed back against the characterization, and U.S. officials have stressed they work closely with their Chinese counterparts as they try to stem the flow of drugs. 

The data on the opioid crisis in America may point to the national and international markets and the source of the supplies, but we here in the tri-county region can’t hide from the fact that opioids are in our own communities. Sadly, some of the figures contained in the overdose death reports included people from our region.

Area law enforcement, social workers, prosecutors, judges and others involved in the fight continue to weigh in on the festering problem. We appreciate their efforts and we owe them our support and allegiance.