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February 08, 2022

Trone, Cotton Lead U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, Release Final Report Outlining Its Key Findings and Proposals


February 8, 2022


Sasha Galbreath (Trone), 
Caroline Tabler (Cotton),
Taylor St. Germain (Markey),
Caroline Banaszak (Upton),

Trone, Cotton Lead U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, Release Final Report Outlining Its Key Findings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Commission Chairs Congressman David Trone (D-MD) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), alongside Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), released the final report of the U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking. Established by the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the Commission was charged with examining aspects of the synthetic drug threat to the United States.

The Commission comprised representatives of seven Executive Branch departments and agencies, four sitting members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and four subject-matter experts chosen for their deep experience and expertise on this topic.

The final report serves as a bipartisan, strategic approach to combating the flow of synthetic opioids into the United States — with an overarching goal of reducing the number of overdose deaths from these drugs.

Since 1999, more than one million Americans have died from drug overdoses — far more than all of the US service members killed in battle in every war throughout our nation’s history. The number of our citizens lost to opioids each year is more than double the number killed by firearms, motor vehicle accidents, or suicide.

Synthetic opioids – primarily fentanyl – were responsible for nearly two-thirds of the over 100,000 reported drug overdose deaths in the United States in the 12-month period ending in June 2021. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, this rate is up 30% from the year prior.

Throughout the Commission’s work, it has become abundantly clear that this cannot be narrowly defined as a local- or state-level public health concern. In 2018, it was estimated that overdose fatalities cost the United States $696 billion. With the rise in overdose deaths in years since, it is fair to estimate that fatal overdoses are now at least a $1 trillion annual cost. Given this demonstrated financial strain and its devastating human impact, it is undeniable that the epidemic presents a threat to our national security and global competitiveness. 

The report outlines a host of evidence-based, data-driven proposals to implement a nationwide and coordinated approach to this crisis, including efforts to:

  • Establish strategies to reduce demand, such as increasing prevention resources and access to treatment, as central priorities in the fight against opioid trafficking; 
  • Develop a unified, central body to coordinate planning, implementation, and evaluation of all U.S. drug control policies;
  • Disrupt drug supply through targeted oversight and enforcement;
  • Collaborate with other countries involved in the production and distribution of synthetic opioids and their chemical precursors;
  • Improve data collection and analysis to allow for more timely and effective responses on the ground in our communities.

Click here to read the full report.

“Since 1999, we’ve lost more than one million Americans to drug overdoses. That’s one million moms, dads, sons, and daughters lost because our country’s response to the opioid epidemic has failed,” said Congressman David Trone, Co-Chair of the Commission. “It’s time to come together, from all levels of government and both sides of the aisle, to address this epidemic and put an end to it once and for all. The Commission’s informed proposals must serve as a roadmap for our country’s leadership, including Congress, to take swift, deliberate action in the months to come. Let’s get to work.”

“274 Americans die every day from drug overdoses—that’s one person every five minutes, and every day it gets worse,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Co-Chair of the Commission. “We must destroy the cartels and drug trafficking networks that flood our streets with these poisons to protect our communities. I’m proud to work with my colleagues to combat this epidemic at all levels of government.”

“The final report of the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking will serve as a roadmap to stanch the flow of illicit fentanyl into the United States, and be our guide as we work to save lives and rebuild communities across the country,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “This report is not the end of our work, but merely the beginning, particularly here on Capitol Hill. Now, we must follow through with comprehensive legislation to implement the report’s recommendations.”

“The scourge of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids is tearing apart communities throughout Michigan and across the country. Families have been through unspeakable suffering as loved ones struggle with addiction,” said Congressman Fred Upton. “In my district, I have met with grieving parents whose grief is unbearable for them. We must redouble our efforts to secure the border against illegal trafficking by targeting Mexican cartels flooding our streets with illicit opioids and force China’s hand to crackdown on their pharmaceutical industry supplying cartels with the base compounds used to manufacture synthetic opioids. I was proud to be a part of this Commission and hope to take what’s in this report and put it into action.”

The Members of Congress were joined by federal agencies and subject-matter experts in support of this vital effort:

“The number of lives we’re losing and the economic impact of this crisis, and the fact that the supply is maliciously coming from entities in other nations, speaks to this as a national security crisis rather than simply a public health crisis,” said Ret. Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr. “The efforts of the Commission and this report make clear that a solution will require far more concerted resources and action at the federal level, in addition to the state, local, and non-profit levels, to tackle this epidemic in any effective way.”

“A full-court press is urgently needed to break the fentanyl death grip on our families, stop the trillion-dollar toll on our economy and protect our national security,” said Karen Tandy, former Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Meaningful progress to reverse the direction of overdose deaths will require new strategic approaches and tools outlined by the Commission, including the implementation of economic sanctions on foreign actors involved in the trade and targeted enforcement support to dismantle drug cartels.  I am proud to have served as a member of this Commission and look forward to seeing its work enacted.” 

“This report exemplifies the best of what our country can and must do to come together and address a complicated and complex national security problem. The bipartisan leadership of and support for this Commission worked together to address this difficult challenge head-on,” said David Luckey, co-leader of the RAND Corporation team that helped to prepare the report for the Commission. “The recommendations laid out in this report provide a path to achieving a consensus strategic approach toward reducing this national security threat and saving American lives.”

“Combating the trafficking of fentanyl must be a high priority for the United States government, the increase in overdose deaths is a national crisis, and this crisis must be met in a whole of government and whole of society effort,” said D.L. McNeal, managing director and senior policy analyst, Longview Global. “The Commission’s report outlines several recommendations for addressing this complex challenge.”

The U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking was established under Section 7221 of the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020, and, by law, concluded its work on February 8, 2022. The Commission includes several federal departments and agencies, as well as four outside members appointed by congressional leadership from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Commission is led by two co-chairs, Congressman David Trone (D-MD) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), who were appointed by congressional leadership and approved by the President of the United States.