According to new CDC numbers, the death toll rose 15 percent last year after jumping 30 percent in 2020.

Three years ago, President Donald Trump boasted that "we're making progress" in reducing drug-related deaths, citing a 4 percent drop between 2017 and 2018. That progress, a dubious achievement even then, proved fleeting. The upward trend in drug-related deaths that began decades ago continued in the same year, with 2020 recording both the largest increase and number in history. That record was broken last year, according to preliminary data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC predicts the 2021 total will be nearly 108,000 when the numbers are final, up 15 percent from 2020 when deaths rose 30 percent. Two-thirds of cases last year involved "synthetic opioids other than methadone," the category that includes fentanyl and its analogues. These drugs showed up in nearly three quarters of opioid-related cases.

Illegal fentanyl, which has become increasingly popular over the past decade as a heroin booster or substitute, is now appearing in cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit pills masquerading as prescription pain relievers or anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax. This phenomenon vividly illustrates the dangers of the black market created by the war on drugs that Trump believed the administration was finally winning.

Joe Biden, a supposedly reformed drug fighter, is still keen on "prosecuting drug trafficking and illicit drug profits," a strategy that has failed for a century but might work this time, he says. At the same time, Biden talks a lot about drug treatment and other forms of "harm reduction," including "key tools like naloxone and syringe service programs." It proudly proclaims that its drug control plan is "the first to use harm reduction to meet people where they are and engage them in care and services."

Tips:- my response read full article a record number of drug-related deaths shows the drug war is remarkably effective at killing people.

The New York Times takes Biden at his word, calling him "the first president committed to harm reduction." While it may be true that Biden is the first President to use the phrase "harm reduction," his predecessors have embraced elements of that agenda.

Donald Trump supported criminal justice reform.

Barack Obama supported needle exchange programs as well as prison reform and drug treatment. Even Richard Nixon, who declared drug abuse "America's number one public enemy," was a strong supporter of the treatment, saying "law enforcement must be accompanied by a rational approach to the drug user's recovery" and calling for "compassion, not simple judgment." . , for those who are victims of narcotics and dangerous drugs, mandatory minimum sentence for possession of small amounts of crack cocaine as proof that he meant business.

If we focus on substance rather than words, the real breakthrough will come when politicians understand and acknowledge the nature of the damage that needs to be reduced. It's not just the damage caused by substance abuse, but also the damage caused by misguided and counterproductive efforts to address the problem. The ban itself is the most obvious example.

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Consider one of the harm reduction measures the Times mentions: the distribution of test strips that can alert drug users to the presence of fentanyl in a substance sold as something else. These test strips don't tell you how much fentanyl is in a bag of powder or a pill; They simply tell you if there is a detectable amount. But even that much knowledge is an improvement in a black market where people routinely buy drugs of unknown origin, composition, and potency.

The danger fentanyl poses to drug users does not reside in the drug itself, which is safe to use when doses are known, as evidenced by its various medicinal uses. I was recently given fentanyl along with midazolam as a sedative during dental surgery and was not at all afraid that it would kill me. Patients who get fentanyl injections in the hospital or use fentanyl patches, lozenges, or nasal sprays to relieve severe chronic pain also don't drop dead left and right.

In contrast, users of black market drugs may not even realize they are buying fentanyl; Hence the test strips. Even if you realize this, you still don't know concentration. This potentially deadly ignorance is solely a product of prohibition. While the proliferation of illicit fentanyl has made drug use more dangerous by increasing variability and uncertainty, these problems are not new. They are unavoidable when the government seeks to ban the use of psychoactive substances.

Given these long-recognized dangers, it was entirely predictable that the painkiller crackdown would not only result in honest patients receiving much-needed relief, it would also increase drug-related deaths by leading to unsuspecting users. doctors to the black market. And that's what appears to have happened: When the government succeeded in reducing opioid prescriptions, the upward trend in opioid-related deaths not only continued, but accelerated.

To the extent that fentanyl has increased the dangers of the black market, it is also a predictable consequence of the ban. Biden believes that "tackling drug trafficking" will help prevent drug-related deaths. But pressure from law enforcement is driving drug traffickers to stronger products that make smuggling easier by allowing them to pack more doses in the same volume. The prohibition of alcohol changed the consumption of beer and wine to spirits. Drug prohibition brought us heroin instead of opium, fentanyl instead of heroin, and sometimes even stronger fentanyl analogs instead of fentanyl.

Given the black market economy, prohibition has always been a futile task. That should be clearer than ever today, as the government tries in vain to intercept small packages of fentanyl, each containing thousands of doses. But even if 'fighting drug traffickers' has never been a cost-effective way to reduce drug use, that doesn't mean nothing has been achieved. It was remarkably effective in making drug use more lethal.