Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein, Co-Chair of the International Narcotics Control Caucus, today called on President-elect Donald Trump to prioritize a counternarcotics strategy as part of his incoming administration. In her letter, Feinstein cited the growing opioid abuse epidemic and drug trafficking concerns, among other issues.
Feinstein wrote: “Every 16 minutes someone dies from an overdose involving opioids. Two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that nearly 13,000 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2015, up by 23 percent over 2014. That same week, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that drug overdose deaths outpaced firearm deaths, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide each year since 2009. In 2015, there were more than 50,000 overdose deaths. This is cause for grave concern, yet this alarming information didn’t even merit a statement from you or your transition team.”
The full text of the letter follows:
December 23, 2016
Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
735 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Dear President-elect Trump:
Our nation is in the midst of a public health crisis that demands your immediate attention. Every 16 minutes someone dies from an overdose involving opioids.
Two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that nearly 13,000 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2015, up by 23 percent over 2014.
That same week, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that drug overdose deaths outpaced firearm deaths, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide each year since 2009. In 2015, there were more than 50,000 overdose deaths.
This is cause for grave concern, yet this alarming information didn’t even merit a statement from you or your transition team.
Between 2009 and 2016 there has been a 214 percent increase in heroin and a 631 percent increase in methamphetamine entering the United States. These drugs are increasingly pure, potent, and cheap – a deadly combination. To respond to this threat, U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased its staff at the Southwest Border by 115 agents.
However, when border security increases, drug traffickers shift to other means of conveyance, including panga and go fast boats. Increased staffing at land ports of entry alone will not prevent illicit narcotics from entering our country.
Between 2009 and 2016, there has been a 561 percent increase in fentanyl crossing our Northern and Southern borders. Fentanyl and carfentanil are laced into heroin and cocaine with greater frequency. These synthetic opioids are extremely dangerous—fentanyl is 50 times stronger than morphine, carfentanil is 100 stronger than fentanyl.
Congress has been working to address these issues. Several bills have been signed into law, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. And the recently signed government funding bill provides resources to carry out many of the programs authorized by these bills, which will help expand prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts.
When you take office, I strongly encourage you to continue the policies and programs that recognize addiction as a public health issue that is both preventable and treatable.
We must also develop concrete steps that we can take in partnership with other countries.
Mexico and Canada are important counternarcotics partners with whom we should establish high-level task forces to increase our collective interdiction and enforcement capabilities. We must better target and dismantle criminal organizations responsible for peddling these dangerous substances.
Precursor chemicals used to produce illicit narcotics are often obtained from China. While China has taken some welcome steps to address this issue, the United States, Mexico and Canada should urge China to take even more aggressive steps to prevent precursor chemicals used to produce illicit drugs from entering North America.
Colombia is also a strong counternarcotics partner to the United States. Despite this, Colombia’s potential pure cocaine production increased by 59 percent last year. The vast majority of Colombian cocaine is destined for the United States, as evidenced by the 56.7 percent increase in cocaine seizures between 2014 and 2015.
The recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC will force us to consider new counternarcotics policies in the country. As such, I strongly encourage you to direct the National Security Council to develop a long-term, interagency counternarcotics strategy.
Drug overdose deaths in our country have reached epidemic proportions and the trafficking of deadly drugs continues to increase. The facts are indisputable and we cannot turn a blind eye to them. For these reasons, I urge you to take decisive, immediate action to address this issue upon taking office.