Government Watchdog Blames DEA for Slow Response to Opioid Crisis

A US Watchdog went after the Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday, citing that the agency has been too slow to act despite a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths since 2000. In fact, the DEA is being accused of even agreeing to an increase in the number of opioid-containing pain pills released.

The Report

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a damning report claiming, among other things, that the “DEA was slow to respond to the dramatic increase in opioid abuse and needs to more fully utilize its regulatory authorities and enforcement resources to detect and combat the diversion of controlled substances.”

The report even claims that the DEA has been cutting back on a method they could have used to stop opioid drugs from being released. In fact, the IG found that they had curbed the use of this tactic from 2013 to 2017, despite thousands of people dying of opioid-related causes during the same period.

Not only that, but despite there being a crisis at hand, the DEA allowed a 400% increase in the production of a drug named Oxycodone from 2002 to 2013. In 2017 the DEA finally decided to use the powers that they have to significantly reduce the production of this addictive drug.

The DEA

If the DEA had acted sooner like it is supposed to, it could have helpedsave a significant number of the approximately 400,000 deaths that have been attributed to opioid overdoses since 1990. The DEA, however, took a far lighter approach.

Another issue was that the DEA allowed doctors and dentists with prior offenses to obtain a license despite having a history of overprescribing, drug misuse, and/or abuse. The report mentions the story of a dentist who surrendered his medical license and DEA registration twice. The dentist had a 25-year history of drug abuse and a felony conviction under his belt. However, they still reissued him a license.

The report found that people who’d had their applications revoked, or had surrendered them, could reapply for a license in as little as a day after it had been revoked. Clearly, the DEA was not working hard enough to prevent doctors that could be a risk to their patients from being able to get a medical license. In a sense, they could just prescribe opioids at will without having to worry about any serious consequences.

While the DEA is making more of an effort now to help curb the use of dangerous opioids, and even prosecute companies and organizations that help to promote them, there is still mush more that needs to be done. In fact, there would be less of an issue today if the DEA had acted accordingly, and limited the issuance, trafficking and the use of this dangerous class of painkillers in the early 2000s. Instead the agency seemingly sat on their hands and waited until 2017 to take any significant enforcement actions or implement updated measures to help prevent the so many deaths.

To be blunt: there is blood on the hands of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and families have been ruined, all because the DEA did not act accordingly or in a timely manner. Let’s just hope that they have gotten themselves together because we will all look to them in the future to help to prevent further deaths associated with opioids.

Too many people have already died, we cannot allow pharmaceutical companies and a lack of regulations and enforcement to take any more.

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