While discussing the drug epidemic in Philadelphia and across the nation, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent spoke to me of the damage illegal drugs do to drug users, as well as to their families.

“I remind others all the time that the hapless drug users we see stumbling along Kensington and Allegheny and elsewhere in the city are people,” the retired DEA agent said. 

“The drug user you see was probably a good person before the drugs took their body and soul. The drug users have families who are devastated by their drug addiction and horrible existence on the street.”

The retired DEA agent blames Mexican drug cartels and the street gangs who profit from the misery they inflict on drug addicts, families, neighborhoods and local businesses. He also pointed a finger at Communist China, who provides the chemicals to cartels for the making of the deadly drug fentanyl.

The former drug agent suggested that I read the DEA’s January 2024 “State and Territory Report On Enduring and Emerging Threat.” 

The report is a stark notice to how drugs are harming Philadelphia and the nation.    

“Fentanyl remains the primary driver behind the ongoing epidemic of overdose deaths in the United States,” the report stated. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 72,027 drug poisoning deaths from fentanyl in 2022. Moreover, the same provisional data shows synthetic opioids were involved in approximately 68 percent of drug poisoning deaths.” 

The report noted that the incidents of fentanyl misuse and drug poisonings, and law enforcement seizures of fentanyl, have increased steadily since at least 2013 and reached record levels in 2022. 

“DEA, along with state, local, and federal law enforcement partners, continues to seize record quantities of fentanyl each year. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) continue to produce fentanyl in both powder form and pressed into fake pills.” 

According to the report. fentanyl is increasingly being mixed with other illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine and methamphetamine. Deaths from psychostimulants (primarily methamphetamine) have steadily increased for the past twelve years, and have sharply increased in the past five, which is likely due to widespread availability of highly pure and potent methamphetamine from Mexico. 

“In 2022, the CDC reported 33,190 people died due to poisoning involving psychostimulants with abuse potential, an increase of 32 percent from 2021. Xylazine, a potent animal tranquilizer, has worsened the fentanyl threat by posing yet another health challenge. 

“Xylazine is not an opioid, so naloxone/Narcan does not reverse its effects. Xylazine is not a controlled substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Xylazine is primarily added to fentanyl and other opioids to enhance the effects. Xylazine, also known as “tranq”, is an analgesic and muscle relaxant for veterinary use. Xylazine has harmful physical effects in the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as muscle and soft tissue injuries that can turn necrotic or result in amputations. Xylazine has been encountered in combination with fentanyl but has also been detected in mixtures containing cocaine and heroin.” 

The report states that deaths from psychostimulants (primarily methamphetamine) have steadily increased for the past twelve years, and have sharply increased in the past five, which is likely due to widespread availability of highly pure and potent methamphetamine from Mexico. 

“The DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Nitazenes (2-benzylbenzimidazoles) are an emerging synthetic opioid group that can be more potent than fentanyl and poses an additional opioid threat to the United States,” the report informs us. “Similar to previously identified synthetic opioids, nitazenes have appeared on the illicit market with minor chemical modifications while retaining their pharmacological profile. Etonitazene, isotonitazene, clonitazene, and several additional nitazene analogues are Schedule I substances under the U.S. CSA. Nitazenes are increasingly being identified in combination with fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine in lab submissions.”

The retired drug agent said the report is sobering. He suggests that what is needed to combat the drug epidemic is a full-frontal attack on the drug suppliers in Mexico and on the street drug gangs in America.

“The open Southern border also needs to be closed. The cartels are assisting illegal immigrants cross the border and in addition to charging a harsh fee for doing so, they are using some of them as “mules.” The mules are carrying the deadly drugs across the border, and they end up in Philadelphia and other cities,” the former DEA agent said. “The cartels are also smuggling in large quantities of drugs via other methods. The Southern border needs to be closed.”

I agree. 

City, state and federal law enforcement need to increase their efforts in shutting down the drug dealing street gangs. And prosecutors and judges ought to slam the drug dealers hard. The DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies ought to be empowered to increase their war on the cartels in Mexico and America. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suggested using American special operation forces to hit the cartels in Mexico during his presidential campaign, and former President Donald Trump has also pondered the use of U.S. special operators in Mexico.      

A Tom Clancy-like scenario of special operators hitting the cartels on their own ground would disrupt the cartels and will make them fear America. 

In my view, the cartels are as serious a threat to America as Islamic radical terrorists. They should be dealt with in the same way we countered the terrorists worldwide.           

Closing the border will stop the easy flow of drugs into America. The cartels are clever, incentivized by money, so they will inevitably find other ways to smuggle in drugs, but closing the border will decrease the amount of deadly drugs now entering the country.  

Having performed security work for the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department for more than 37 years, I know that proper security needs several rings. In addition to a solid border wall, we need additional security measures, such as concertina wire, (like Texas is laying out), electronic sensors, and an increase in Border Patrol special agents and service dogs who defend the border. 

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime.com. 

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *