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Breakout Session: Detect Emerging Drug Threats and Use Patterns

(As prepared)

Thank you, Ned (Price).

Hello, everyone,

Thank you all for taking part in this panel on emerging drug threats and use patterns.

My name is Dr. Rahul Gupta. I am President Biden’s top advisor on drug policy, and Director of National Drug Control Policy. In this role, I lead more than $43 billion in investments to treat untreated addiction and disrupt drug traffickers in the United States, and abroad.

As you heard from Secretary Blinken, because producing, selling, and trafficking illicit synthetic drugs involves a global supply chain, the synthetic drug problem is one “that no country can solve alone.”

So, our discussion could not be more urgent, given the threat of synthetic drugs in all of our countries.

I will focus our discussion on how we can all work to detect emerging drug threats and patterns of use so we can respond accordingly, keep people alive, and hold drug traffickers accountable for their crimes.

I’m pleased to be joined by several distinguished leaders who will offer their perspectives on this, including:

Executive Director Waly from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, who will talk about UNODC’s role in addressing synthetics, including how the UN uses the data we all submit to guide its enforcement efforts;

Brigadier General al-Dabbas, the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who will talk about the threat posed by captagon in Middle East;

Director Goosdeel of the European Centre for Monitoring Drug and Drug Addiction, who will talk about how synthetic opioids are affecting Europe;

And Dr. Madubuike, the Director of Drug Demand Reduction Directorate in the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who will talk about their latest data and what it tells us about drug use trends in Nigeria.

Thank you all for being here.

I’d like to speak for a few moments about the unique nature of the threat posed by these synthetic drugs, and the importance of data in guiding our individual and collective responses.

We’re all taking part in this coalition because we all recognize the danger synthetic drugs pose to the health and safety of our people, and to our national security and to the world.

Illicit fentanyl, methamphetamine, xylazine, tramadol, captagon, nitazines, synthetic cannabinoids and more are killing people across the globe, straining our public health systems, and emboldening drug producers and traffickers who use their illicit profits to destabilize countries where they operate.

This threat can be viewed as two sides of the same coin: public health and public safety, because any response that only address one side of the coin is sure to go broke trying.

So. it is incumbent upon all of us to act holistically, and I want to take a moment to applaud the more than 80 countries and 12 international organizations who are taking part in the launch of the Global Coalition today.

We come from every corner of the world, and we all have different versions of this problem, but we all recognize that the world needs a solution and needs one now.

I often say there are three types of countries today:

  • Those who have a synthetic drug problem and know it, like the United States;
  • Those who have a synthetic drug problem and don’t know it;
  • And those who don’t have a synthetic drug problem yet.

Synthetic drugs are truly a shared global problem. And no matter which category your country falls into, being a part of this coalition will help each of us contend with this unprecedented and urgent threat.

Today we have an opportunity to discuss how we track emerging threats, and how we devise the appropriate responses.

And the answer is data.

What do I mean?

I’ll give you an example.

Look at what the world accomplished in the COVID-19 pandemic.

We faced an unprecedented threat with no tests or treatments when it began.

But we developed tools to track its spread around the globe… we developed tests… we developed vaccines… and we developed treatments, all in a remarkably short time.

And data guided all of this work—from distribution of tests, to delivery of vaccines and more.

We must create a similar system for synthetic drugs and overdoses.

In the United States, we are using every tool at our disposal to create a real-time data system that allows to respond to overdoses and go after traffickers.

We are tracking fatal overdoses, treatment admissions and more, so we can understand the scope of the problem.

For the first time ever, we are also tracking non-fatal overdoses in near real-time through an online dashboard—and this informs our ability to respond on the ground.

Today, this dashboard is helping communities direct resources to areas in need of overdose response, harm reduction services, and connections to treatment.

We are also using data to track the emergence of xylazine combined with illicit fentanyl, which I declared as an emerging threat facing the United States just this past April.

Now, we are getting ready to release our national response plan, which again is guided by data.

And, we are using data to determine the flow of illicit drugs into and across the United States, making record seizures, and using the intelligence we gather to inform additional enforcement actions, including major recent actions involving the dark web.

We are working closely with partner nations to address the entire supply chain of synthetic drugs … from working against the criminal diversion of precursor chemicals, to collaborating against major drug producing cartels, as well as exchanging best practices with countries on public health responses to save lives.

In May, our Department of Justice announced its largest-ever international operation against darknet trafficking of fentanyl and illicit opioids, which spanned three continents and led to 288 arrests, the seizure of 850 kg of drugs, and more than $50 million in cash and virtual currencies.

The point is that we know we can’t solve this problem without making data and information sharing top priorities.

That’s why we engage so thoroughly in data collection within the United States and information sharing with our partners.

And we are constantly looking to improve our data systems and information sharing so we can improve our approach to this threat.

And the United States is not alone in the need for better data and information sharing.

How we work together to track drug production and movement—and how we respond—will improve public health and public safety in all of our countries.

One step we can all take is improving our data sharing with the INCB.

Here’s what INCB data systems are capable of:

Since 2017, their Global Rapid Interdiction of Dangerous Substances Program, or GRIDS, has resulted in the exchange of drug trafficking intelligence for more than 65,000 cases.

And their recent Operation Knockout brought together more than 100 international partners to disrupt trafficking networks for new psychoactive substances used to facilitate sexual assault, and seized more than a metric ton of drugs.

And the list goes on.

So, the power of good data cannot be underestimated, and I encourage all nations here today to report their data for not only their own benefit but for everyone’s as well.

As we engage in today’s meeting, and prepare for this fall’s UN General Assembly, it is vital that we keep the importance of data in mind as we track emerging threats and our response to them … and I urge you also to keep in mind how we can work together to prevent the illicit manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs… and to promote public health interventions and services to reduce the devastation these drugs cause in so many societies.

Working together is how we hold drug traffickers accountable.

Working together is how we stop synthetics from destroying lives.

And working together is how we make the world a safer and healthier place for all peoples of all nations.

So, thank you again for being here.

Now, I will turn it over to Mr. Kemp Chester, the Senior Advisor for International Relations and Supply Reduction at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, to moderate our discussion.

Kemp, please go ahead.

[Discussion ends]

Thank you, Kemp …  and thank you to everyone who took part in today’s discussion, including our panelists who shared their perspectives and expertise.

On behalf of the United States, I want to thank everyone who has joined this global coalition and is engaged in solving a problem that affects us all in some way.

Today’s launch of this coalition is just the beginning.

Working together, we will get ahead of this problem, we will prevent it from getting worse, we will hold criminal actors and drug traffickers accountable… and we will improve life for billions of people around the globe.

I’ll now turn to back over to Ned Price to officially close this breakout session.

U.S. Department of State

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