The drug epidemic has drastically affected the entire U.S. over the last decade. In 2010, the number of drug overdose deaths in the country was a little over 38 thousand. In addition to the prevalence of the traditional drugs (i.e., cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.), the rise of illicit fentanyl in the illegal drug market in the 2010’s has led to a more than 100% increase of drug overdoses over a 10-year period. Although the CDC is still in the process of finalizing overdose death cases for their count, the projection is expected to flirt with 90 thousand overdose deaths in the U.S. That would be a new record high, exceeding the previous record set in 2019 by 15-18 thousand deaths. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the drug epidemic, but there were already signs of a record-breaking year of overdose deaths in the months prior to start of the pandemic.
These numbers are quite numbing. We’ve seen overdose deaths increase almost every year since 1999 and considering the fact that law enforcement has been using outdated methods to get drugs off of the streets, these numbers were inevitable as the drugs of the 2010’s and 2020’s have become more complex in composition than the drugs of the past.
Our home state of Florida has often found itself on the list of states with the top 5 highest overdose deaths in the country. With a large population and its many potential routes for illicit drug smuggling into the state, this is not surprising. The Florida Department of Health reported 5,147 drug overdose deaths in 2019. According to CDC projections, the 2020 numbers may end up with a final count of over 8,000 overdose deaths. At what point are law enforcement agencies and public officials going to come up with new solutions to curb these numbers? How many of them are actually viewing this as a problem that can be fixed? What solutions are even available?
This is a problem that will require multiple solutions and approaches on multiple fronts. From a non-police perspective, there is a case of innovative solutions being implemented that actually led to a decline of overdose deaths in 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio (specifically Hamilton County). These solutions involved the emphasis of prevention in form of drug education for younger demographics, mental health and medication-assisted treatment (i.e., buprenorphine) for those that are addicted to opioids or in recovery, and harm reduction with Narcan use, clean needle exchange programs, and test strips to ensure the drug does not contain fentanyl. The fourth solution is a task that is in the hands of our local law enforcement agencies – effective drug interdiction.
The social and health experts seem to be on to something with the first three solutions, so my faith is in them to continue to push public officials to adopt these innovative ideas in their respective regions to combat the drug epidemic. IDEM Systems’ focus is on the drug interdiction part of the solution. Law enforcement agencies and crime labs are bottlenecked by the current methods being used to collect drug intelligence. The wide use of traditional field drug testing kits is the biggest problem that hinders the ability for drug enforcement professionals to determine emerging drug threats in their region. Our technology will streamline the drug intelligence collection process for public safety agencies, so that it no longer takes months… but minutes to gather valuable drug intel. I am speaking about technology that provides near real-time drug intelligence, which will speed up the police response to deadly illicit and counterfeit drug supplies in our Florida communities. This technology will change the paradigm of police drug test kits by providing law enforcement agencies with a handheld field drug testing ecosystem that will adapt to the changes and evolution of tomorrow’s illicit drugs.
Our goal isn’t to help police arrest small time drug dealers in Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa-St.Petersburg. Our innovative tech is looking at the bigger picture in providing the capability to rapidly track narcotics and specific drug signatures back to their clandestine suppliers and manufacturers. Stopping the illicit drugs at their source is the most effective method of drug interdiction and that’s what our solution intends to do.