Uttam’s Dhillon’s talk at the USC Aiken Signature Speaker Series started out with a few hard-hitting statistics: Americans under 50 today are more likely to die from drugs than any other cause; and more Americans die from unintentional drug overdoses than from firearms, motor vehicle crashes or homicides.
Dhillon is the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and traveled to USC Aiken on Tuesday to talk about the DEA and its efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Dhillon called “Mexican transnational criminal organizations” the greatest threat to the United States, and said they violate the sovereignty of the United States every day “from the south, from the north, by land, by sea, by air.”
“They are active throughout the Americas, including the south east, with tentacles reaching right here into Aiken County,” he said.
He mentioned a recent operation in Aiken that DEA was involved in, calling it a good example of the roots of traffickers in the area.
“A methamphetamine trafficking organization active in this region for years had Aiken as a major distribution point,” he said. “All told, they sold hundreds of kilos of crystal meth and about 50 kilos of heroin each year in the Carolinas and Georgia.”
He also mentioned immigration and President Donald Trump’s focus on immigration, especially from Central America, saying a principal reason people come to the United States is to escape the “corruption, instability and violence caused by traffickers there.”
Dhillon painted a picture of this during his talk by discussing the recent political issues there, and pointing to the Venezuelan government’s ties with drug traffickers.
He also talked about the dangers and prevalence of fentanyl. The DEA’s website defines fentanyl as a “synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.” The website says many users unknowingly purchase fentanyl when they believe they are buying heroin, which “often results in overdose deaths.”
Dhillon called fentanyl one of the principal drivers in the dramatic increase of deaths from drugs.
“This includes a more than 100 percent increase in synthetic opioid related deaths in North Carolina last year, while here in South Carolina, nearly 1,400 deaths were attributable to opioids in 2016 and 2017,” Dhillon said.
“Like fentanyl, nearly all the heroin, cocaine and meth found in the United States comes from abroad by international trafficking organizations,” he said.
Drug trafficking is an international problem, not just a domestic one, Dhillon said. He cited the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which says 31 million people worldwide suffer from drug abuse problems, and 450,000 died from them in 2015.
“Traffickers don’t respect borders, and drugs can eat away at you regardless of where you are from or what your background is,” he said.
“It does not matter whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, or what your passport says. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer.”
Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star.
This article provided by NewsEdge.