President Biden has appointed former West Virginia health official Rahul Gupta as the new head of US drug policy as overdoses and drug trafficking increase.
If approved by the Senate, Gupta would become the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and be tasked with tackling the staggering 30% increase in overdose deaths the United States has seen in 2020. The figure is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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President Biden’s appointment of Dr. Rahul Gupta to be the first physician to head the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy is another historic milestone in the administration’s efforts to turn the tide. ‘Our nation’s drug and overdose epidemic, “a White House spokesman said on Tuesday.
West Virginia has led the country in opioid-related deaths for the past 20 years, Senator Joe Manchin said Tuesday.
Manchin applauded Biden’s decision and said his appointment “means someone with first-hand knowledge of the opioid crisis … will coordinate the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our country.”
Gupta’s role as a leader in the fight against drug abuse in the United States is not facilitated by the increase in drug trafficking on the southern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have reported that despite border closures throughout the pandemic, drug trafficking has remained an ongoing problem.
The cartels reportedly changed their trafficking strategies by relying on US citizens to transport drugs, as they could cross the border more freely.
Between October 2020 and March this year, U.S. citizens were arrested for drug trafficking seven times more frequently than Mexican nationals, according to CBP.
Hard drugs, like methamphetamine and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, continued to pour into the United States at a time when use was on the rise – a crisis, Gupta said, was exacerbated by the pandemic.
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But significant drug trafficking is no longer confined to ports of entry, where the majority of drugs have historically entered the United States.
Authorities have reported an increase in the amount of fentanyl found between border checkpoints over the past three years, NBC News first reported.
This year alone, around 41 pounds of the deadly drug were found by authorities in the desert lands between ports of entry – up from nine pounds in 2020 and two pounds in 2019.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, and just over two pounds of the drug can kill up to 500,000 people.
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Gupta, who most recently served as Chief Medical Officer at March of Dimes, has gained national attention for his data-driven response to the opioid crisis in his home state.
“Dr. Gupta brings first-hand experience as a physician and public health official using evidence-based strategies to tackle the overdose epidemic in West Virginia,” said a spokesperson for the West Virginia. White House. “We hope that it will soon be confirmed by the Senate.”
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