As Drugs Flow In, the Death Toll Rises

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.

About Author


Casey joined FAIR in 2018. He assists the research team with projects and writes for FAIR’S website. He previously spent a year working in journalism in Washington, D.C. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in Journalism in 2017.


  1. avatar

    The Democrats love the high death toll. Between the drugs, and the infectious diseases rampaging through their “Beautiful Cities” sarcasm is my first language, you would think the would take notice of their dying voter base. They want the chaos, and misery to get to a point where they can swoop in with more Government Regulation, and Taxes to fix a problem they created.

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  3. avatar

    It’s more important that drug smugglers get across the border unimpeded while border agents are tied up with family units? Apparently. What other conclusion to come to when the federal drug control czar says a wall would help? Common sense says it would help. Smugglers can just run across the border or struggle to get themselves and their product over a high barrier, giving border agents time to get to the scene.

    Democrats had no problem voting for a secure border in 2006. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandated 700 miles of “at least two layers of reinforced fencing” along the border. In the Senate 26 Democrats voted for, 17 against. Among the yes votes: Hillary, Schumer, Biden, Obama, Feinstein. Never built though as it was defunded when Democrats took control of Congress in 2007. Yet another broken promise and further proof that they will never ever do anything of substance, besides talking, to secure the border.