Objective 2.5: Combat Drug Trafficking and Prevent Overdose Deaths

Drug trafficking and substance abuse continue to take a significant toll on the American public.  In the twelve months between September 2020 and September 2021, more than 104,000 Americans died due to drug overdose.  The overwhelming majority of these deaths involved opioids.  The Department will address this harm in several ways.  The Department will combat transnational drug trafficking organizations.  These organizations are operating a $500 billion industry that fuels corruption, violence, and terrorism around the globe.

In addition, the Department will address the evolving nature of the illicit drug threat, on both the dark and clear webs.  While the dark web remains a threat, social media and e-commerce platforms on the clear web have emerged as new marketplaces to buy and sell counterfeit pills, opioids, and other drugs, as well as dangerous precursor chemicals and the equipment used to manufacture pills.  Many of the counterfeit pills sold online, which look exactly like actual pharmaceuticals, are marketed to kids, teens, and young adults, and are often mixed with synthetic fentanyl – the leading driver of the overdose epidemic.  Dismantling illicit online drug marketplaces and holding responsible corporations – including responsible executives – who enable these illicit drug marketplaces, are critical to preventing overdoses and stemming the flow of dangerous drugs into our communities.

The Justice Department will also continue to detect, limit, and deter fraud and illegal prescription, distribution, and diversion offenses that result in patient harm.  Finally, the Department will address the needs of individuals involved with the justice system who have substance use and mental health disorders to promote long-term recovery.

Strategy 1: Disrupt and Dismantle Drug Trafficking Organizations
The Department will use all available resources to combat drug trafficking in the United States.  We will simultaneously target the trafficking organizations, their financial infrastructure, and their distribution networks.  We will share information across components and in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies.  We will employ enhanced intelligence analysis and scientific research to target, investigate, and prosecute traffickers participating in significant transnational, national, and regional drug trafficking organizations.  And we will target international sources of supply, money launderers, international and domestic transportation organizations, and regional and local distribution networks.

Strategy 2: Reduce Deaths and Addiction Driven by Drug Crime
As part of our effort to address the opioid epidemic, we will focus our attention on the diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances to illegitimate consumers.  The Department will continue to employ advanced data analytics to identify and investigate suspicious billing and prescription patterns.  We will also prosecute medical professionals and corporations – including responsible executives – involved in the illegal prescription, diversion, and distribution of opioids.  Finally, we will continue to evaluate drug prescription quotas and investigate and prosecute fraud and kickback schemes in the substance use treatment industry.

Strategy 3: Expand Access to Evidence-Based Prevention and Treatment
In conjunction with other agencies, the Department will work to ensure that individuals with substance use disorders get the treatment and ongoing support they need.  The Department will support the expansion of evidence-based, opioid-use disorder treatment options, including for incarcerated individuals and those reentering the community.  For the public at large, the Department will work with other agencies to reform regulations to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and assist states and localities in implementing such programs.  The Department will also work with state, local, and Tribal partners to increase access to recovery support services and continuity of care across public safety and public health systems.  In addition, the Department will aggressively enforce the civil rights laws on behalf of people with substance use and mental health disorders. 

More broadly, the Department will also promote evidence-based crisis response deflection, diversion, and alternatives to incarceration, and will support education and training about substance use disorders for public safety professionals and others across the justice system.  To stop the cycle of substance use before it starts, we will invest in prevention efforts, particularly for youth, and combat the stigma associated with substance use disorders. 

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Percent of disruptions or dismantlements of drug trafficking organizations focused on the highest priority targets
  • Amount of diversion, nationally, of opioids and stimulants
  • Percent of relevant-funded grantee programs that provide medication-assisted-treatment, which includes medication plus counseling, as part of their substance use disorder services

Contributing DOJ Components: CIV, CRM, CRT, USAO, OCDETF, DEA, FBI, COPS, OJP, JMD 

Updated June 3, 2022