From urban centers to rural towns, the drug epidemic is destroying families and communities at an alarming rate. In 1999, just under 17,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose. That number increased to more than 70,000 deaths by 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This is an issue that receives widespread and daily media attention, but what can lawmakers do to reverse this disturbing trend?
First, we have to understand the roots of the problem. Several factors probably contribute to this epidemic, beginning with mental health and family dynamics. While these problems play an important role on the demand side of the equation, many politicians choose to ignore the supply side – namely the absurd amount of drugs coming through our porous southern border.
In the first half of Fiscal Year 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized more than 38,000 pounds of cocaine, 3,000 pounds of heroin, 39,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 1,700 pounds of fentanyl. CBP drug seizures are set to surpass the totals of the previous year, with fentanyl almost matching last year’s total.
The rise in drug seizures coincides with this year’s influx in migrants crossing the southern border. The CBP apprehended more migrants so far this year than at any other time since 2007. Drug cartels are using this crisis to smuggle greater quantities of drugs across the border between ports of entry while CBP officers are busy dealing with the migrants.
Yet either out of their hatred for President Trump or their fixation on potential amnestied voters down the road, some members of Congress seem more obsessed with providing illegal aliens with more benefits than protecting Americans who actually need help.
In 2017, synthetic narcotics like fentanyl killed more than 28,000 people in this country. Heroin and cocaine ended the lives of another 30,000, according to NIDA. These numbers are probably even greater for 2018 and will continue to grow if left unaddressed.
If lawmakers were honest with the citizens of this nation, they would acknowledge that drug cartels are taking advantage of the migrant crisis to expand the scope of their illegal businesses. Lawmakers would then fund a border wall, which could either stop much of the flow or at least force anyone attempting to smuggle drugs across the border to the ports of entry. In fact, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Jim Carroll, endorsed the wall for that very reason earlier this year.
“So that wall will undoubtedly stop the flow of drugs in those locations, force people to the ports of entry where there’s more law enforcement located to make sure that the people coming into our country are properly searched just to make sure that they’re not carrying with them any illicit substances,” he said in March.
Congress should treat this drug epidemic as priority. It isn’t uncommon for the federal government to pour billions of dollars into treating people with addictions, but that is only part of the problem. Congress must also cut off the drug flow from Mexico before real progress can be made.
Discouragingly, that is unlikely to happen. In this partisan era, some elected officials have demonized the idea of a wall. In reality, it could save countless lives from the addictions afflicting many Americans today.