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New DEA division to oversee anti-opioid efforts in Appalachian region

In a fresh move aimed at combating the United States’ worsening drug crisis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided to convert its Louisville, Kentucky district office into a new field division. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement in late November 2017 during a Department of Justice press conference. The Louisville division office, the first in nearly 20 years and the DEA’s 22nd, will oversee some of the most drug-ravaged zones in the Appalachian Mountains spread across West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The new division office will be operational from Jan. 1, 2018 and will be led by special agent-in-charge D. Christopher Evans, a 25-year DEA veteran, currently an associate special agent in the Detroit field division. The Louisville field division will comprise around 90 special agents and 130 task force officers across the three states. According to the DEA, this restructuring will help it align better with prosecutors, federal partners and the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) to fight the opioid crisis.

“These areas covered by this new division face similar drug threats, enabling this division to better focus on those threats,” said Sessions. He also announced grants of over $12 million to law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to combat the illegal manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs. Sessions announced that all U.S. attorneys will be required to designate an opioid coordinator to lead the anti-opioid efforts in their communities.

More effective investigations into drug trafficking

Over the last few years, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia have consistently ranked among the states with the highest drug prescribing rates. Moreover, these states have struggled with the problem of prescription drug trafficking for years. Users addicted to prescription drugs now prefer illegal versions of such opioids, which further complicates the DEA’s task of restricting the epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, increased 90.5 percent in Tennessee and 76.4 percent in West Virginia during 2014-15. With the establishment of the Louisville field division, the DEA hopes to undertake more effective investigations on trafficking of heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids, all of which significantly impact the Appalachian mountain region. “DEA continually looks for ways to improve operations and interagency cooperation and more efficiently leverage resources,” said DEA acting administrator Robert W. Patterson.

Preliminary CDC data indicates that across the U.S., nearly 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. “That would be the highest drug overdose death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history,” said Sessions. The crisis is driven predominantly by opioids, particularly prescription drugs. In October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and resolved to “overcome addiction in America.”

The new initiatives announced by the DEA and Sessions are part of the Trump administration’s efforts to stem the crisis, particularly after investigations showed that large drug companies were supplying prescription drugs to unethical doctors and pharmacies in rural areas which in turn were diverting these drugs to the black market.

Overcoming addiction to prescription drugs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction to prescription drugs and other substances is a brain disorder which can be treated successfully. Medications given in conjunction with behavioral therapy and psychosocial support can help treat addiction. Addiction can be fatal if it becomes chronic. Timely intervention can help in achieving sobriety and leading an addiction-free life.

If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs or any other substance and is looking for a 24-hour drug helpline, call the 24/7 Recovery Helpline at 855-441-4405. You can also chat online with one of our experts who can provide information on the best drug rehab help.

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