DEA Administrator Says Shift from Plant-Based Drugs to Synthetic Drugs Has Resulted in the “Most Dangerous and Deadly Drug Crisis” in US History

Today, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram announced the release of the 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA). In it the agency warns about the shift away from plant-based drugs to synthetic drugs.

The NDTA is the DEA’s “comprehensive strategic assessment of illicit drug threats and trafficking trends endangering the United States.”

In a press release announcing the new assessment, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram says that “The shift from plant-based drugs, like heroin and cocaine, to synthetic, chemical-based drugs, like fentanyl and methamphetamine, has resulted in the most dangerous and deadly drug crisis the United States has ever faced.”

In their press release, the DEA referenced CDC data indicating that 107,941 Americans died from drug-related causes in 2022. Notably, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids accounted for about 70% of these deaths, while methamphetamine and other synthetic stimulants were responsible for roughly 30%. Marijuana, as always, resulted in no overdose deaths.

“Fentanyl is the nation’s greatest and most urgent drug threat”, says the DEA. “Two milligrams (mg) of fentanyl is considered a potentially fatal dose. Pills tested in DEA laboratories average 2.4 mg of fentanyl, but have ranged from 0.2 mg to as high as 9 mg. The advent of fentanyl mixtures to include other synthetic opioids, such as nitazenes, or the veterinary sedative xylazine have increased the harms associated with fentanyl.  ”

Seizures of fentanyl, in both powder and pill form, are at record levels. Over the past two years seizures of fentanyl powder nearly doubled. DEA seized 13,176 kilograms (29,048 pounds) in 2023. Meanwhile, the more than 79 million fentanyl pills seized by DEA in 2023 is almost triple what was seized in 2021. Last year, 30% of the fentanyl powder seized by DEA contained xylazine. That is up from 25% in 2022.

The announcement of the updated NDTA comes just days after the DEA announced that it will be moving marijuana —a plant-based substance— off of the Schedule III list, instead placing it on Schedule III.

For a breakdown of the 10 biggest implications of marijuana being moved to Schedule III, click here. For a look at the five states that could still legalize marijuana this year, click here.

Thank you for reading The Marijuana Herald! Sign up for our weekly newsletter using the form below.