In order to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, the federal government in the United States has been employing various strategies like partnering with international governments and domestic agencies to limit the manufacturing of illicit drugs. However, despite such relentless efforts, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) casts doubts on the results.
The report probed how many of the federal departments — including the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security – had addressed the spike in illegal synthetic opioids – fentanyl and/or any of its analogs. The findings showed that it was only in the recent years that the federal organizations had pressed the panic button and started taking concrete steps to combat the menace.
Ways to measure success are missing
The federal government asked the GAO to assess the success rate of the strategies employed to fight the opioid epidemic. Some of the findings of the agency were:
- Law enforcement agencies in tandem with the Department of Justice were collaborating with many agencies dealing with public health to investigate and track the sources of overdose deaths.
- Various treatment programs and prevention techniques like safe needle exchange programs and improved access to naloxone were devised by collaborating with public health organizations.
- Several agencies had teamed up with other government and global administrations and shared information about suspicious shipments. Fentanyl shipments from countries like Mexico and China were intercepted.
- Newer technologies empowered officers to detect fentanyl from afar, without jeopardizing their safety. International packages passing through shipping ports went through rigorous screening for fentanyl by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
However, the authors of the report said that none of the above agencies actually tried to develop ways to measure their progress in terms of tangible consequences, such as reducing opioid deaths in the country.
The report also lauded the efforts of the agencies, saying that the federal departments were successful in several ways like enhancing their methods to curtail the production, demand or the availability of harmful synthetic opioids. However, they also reiterated that more efforts would be needed to estimate the fruitfulness of these programs to warrant the resources invested vis-a-vis the intended outcomes.
Shortage of manpower affecting agencies’ work
The report, apart from pointing out the failures, also highlighted some of the problems faced by the agencies. Shortage of manpower and quality staff had prevented them from discharging their duties to the optimum. Although the CBP Department possesses eight top labs throughout the country to test for the presence of illicit drugs in confiscated packages, an acute shortage of staff in most of them was to be blamed for the lack of quick reports.
The opioid crisis has the potential to derail a nation. However, the responsibility of fighting the epidemic lies not only with the federal agencies, but with individuals as well. If you or a loved one is grappling with an opioid addiction, seek an appointment with a clinician right away.
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