Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco delivers speech announcing anti-drugs campaign and awareness campaign | Takeover bid
Notes as delivered
Thanks for being here today. I am happy to be joined today by DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in highlighting one of the most significant threats to public safety and health in this country: fatal drug overdoses.
The top priority of the Department of Justice is to protect the American people. And that means we have an obligation to educate Americans about the deadly threat of counterfeit pills – counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of illicit fentanyl. And we also have a responsibility to do everything we can, together with our law enforcement partners, to stop it.
So today we’re here to let the American people know that One Pill Can Kill – and we’re here to announce it this week – the women and men of the Drug Enforcement Administration, working with their state and local counterparts. in law enforcement, in a series of coordinated actions across the country seized more than 1.8 million counterfeit pills. Now, crises like this alone will not solve this problem. We also need the public to understand the dangers posed by counterfeit pills.
Last year, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States. This is the highest number of drug-related deaths on record in a single year – and it’s a 30% increase from last year. These are shocking numbers – and as the map we’re showing now shows – from small towns and suburbs to rural counties, no place is safe. No place in this country is safe from the overdose deaths that plague this country.
We now know that opioids were responsible for nearly 75% of overdose deaths in 2020 – and that the main contributor to those deaths was illicit fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills.
In recent years, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of counterfeit pills containing illicit fentanyl.
And when we say “counterfeit pills”, I want to be very clear, we mean pills designed to look like legitimate pills that could be prescribed by your doctor. But in fact, they are fake pills. They are made in illegal laboratories, in many cases in Mexico, and they are not, I stress, legitimate drugs. Increasingly, they contain lethal doses of fentanyl and also methamphetamine.
Counterfeit pills have been identified in all states of this country. They are sold in city centers, suburbs and rural communities. They are sold on the Internet and on social media platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Snapchat, and they are marketed to teenagers.
The ubiquity of synthetic opioids, their low cost, and the way criminal drug networks disguise them as legitimate prescription pills can really make them particularly dangerous to public safety.
Now, to tackle this problem, we need a public awareness campaign to get this message out to every community and every home. And we also need aggressive enforcement.
That’s why earlier this week, DEA administrator Milgram issued a public safety alert on the dangers of counterfeit pills. Now, the last time the DEA issued a public safety alert like this was in 2015. And the reason we thought it was so important to issue that alert now is is because the DEA and its law enforcement partners are seizing deadly fake pills at an alarming rate. rate.
Over 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized so far this year – more than the past two years combined. The number of fake pills containing fentanyl has jumped nearly 430% since 2019.
And the DEA finds out that when it seizes counterfeit pills, they contain more than two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. And just to put that in perspective, it’s the size that could fit on the tip of a pen. That’s all it takes.
And in 2017, again to put it in perspective, one in 10 counterfeit pills contained a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl. Today, that number is four in 10. That’s four out of 10 counterfeit pills containing a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl.
That’s why we launched the “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. And in the weeks and months to come, we will be spreading this message in communities, in classrooms, in homes, across the country. And we’ll be doing this throughout the holiday season as well, because we know that’s when prescription drug use and abuse can increase.
Because a single pill can kill, DEA field divisions across the country have taken coordinated enforcement action and seized more than 1.8 million counterfeit pills – just for this operation.
And this is truly a national effort: in the past eight weeks, 89 DEA offices from coast to coast have carried out law enforcement operations that have resulted in arrests to fight against the wave of counterfeit pills.
Now the DEA administrator will discuss this in more detail, but a very common fact pattern that we see in these enforcement actions is that the counterfeit pills that were brought into the United States were illegally produced in Mexico; using precursor chemicals supplied by Chinese companies. Now we are going to work closely with Mexico to seek help shutting down these labs and we call on China to work with us to help end the criminal abuse of precursor chemicals.
I would like to thank Administrator Milgram for her leadership at the DEA and for her leadership in this effort. And I will now turn the floor over to her to provide more details on these operations. Thank you.