Head of DEA Warns of the Growing Drug Issues
Aiken, SC (02/06/2019) — The nation's top leader for the Drug Enforcement Administration spoke to students, faculty, staff and community members during the University of South Carolina Aiken's annual Signature Speaker Series.
Uttam Dhillon, the acting administrator for the agency tasked with enforcing the controlled substance laws and regulations, talked about the opioid epidemic, illegal drug trafficking, and what the DEA is doing to combat the associated challenges.
"It's shocking that today more Americans die from unintentional drug overdoses than from firearms, motor vehicle crashes, or homicides," Dhillon said.
"We're on a college campus, so it's particularly relevant that for Americans under 50 today, you're more likely to die from drugs than from any other cause."
He addressed several aspects of the multifaceted issue, including the use of opioids for medical purposes, which can sometimes inadvertently lead to addition. His organization provides oversight for controlled prescription drugs. Dhillon said these can be a "major gateway" for dependence.
While he says that compassion should be shown to victims of addition, "traffickers should expect to be arrested and charged with the most serious and readily provable offenses they are responsible for."
Dhillon spoke about drug trafficking, including an operation based in Aiken, and how it is "as much an international problem as a domestic threat."
"We disrupt, dismantle, and destroy drug trafficking organizations," Dhillon said.
To that end, he said that last year, DEA seized more than a half-million pounds of methamphetamine; 55,000 pounds of heroin; 1.7 million pounds of cocaine; and a ton of fentanyl. Dhillon advised that this is "more than enough to kill every man, woman, and child in the United States."
The DEA enforces the nation's federal drug laws, set by Congress and collaborates with other government agencies to tackle this problem.
"We work closely with, and ultimately share the same goals as, our allies and partners in the prevention and recovery communities. We believe that part of stopping drug abuse before it starts requires reducing the supply of those drugs."
He says the key to that includes interdiction and enforcement.
"To me, it's common sense: the more we reduce access to drugs, the fewer drugs there are to be abused, and fewer people who will use them," Dhillon said.
"Doing this isn't just wise policy: it's compassionate. It's measurable, and it's an effective, efficient investment of resources, one in keeping with our American values.
"It is also common sense that the prevention, enforcement, and recovery communities complement and support one another: we will all rise or fall together."
Several students who attended Dhillon's presentation found it informative.
"Tonight's program and the insights we've learned from Mr. Dhillon are important aspects of the outstanding education I'm getting here at USC Aiken," said Q'Ladrin Qourters, a biology major who plans to be a pathologist.
She thanked Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor of USC Aiken, bringing Dhillon to campus and for Jordan's "investment in our futures and for setting students, like me, up for success through engaging, dynamic and informative programs like the Signature Speaker Series."