The dangerous drug crisis plaguing our country since 2014 has nothing to do with prescription drugs. Prescriptions of painkillers are dramatically curtailed, coinciding with the exact period of time the drug deaths soared. The source of almost all the drug deaths is the Mexican cartels, which have introduced a mix of the most lethal drugs laced with fentanyl, including opioids and non-opioids and even alcohol and sleeping pills. Nowhere is this more evident than in my home state of Maryland.
So, what’s causing the deaths?
This chart from the Maryland Department of Health is worth 1,000 words.
As you can see, the entire surge since 2014 was all driven by fentanyl and cocaine. It was also initially driven by heroin overdoses, but much of that was because the cartels began lacing the heroin with fentanyl, just as they are doing today with cocaine. Every DEA and CBP agent I’ve spoken to tells me those are the biggest problems, and they are all coming from the Mexican cartels. Meth, another non-opioid, is also a big problem in the more rural states. The drugs are then processed and distributed primarily through criminal alien networks trafficking them without any fear of either being deported or serving hard time.
But the entire political class is focusing on prescription drugs and lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. The reality is that opioid prescriptions have plummeted in Maryland, even as the fatalities surge. The prescribing rate in Maryland has dropped by 29 percent since 2011 and is now below the national average.
As you can see from the chart, just 379 of the overall 2,406 decedents in 2018 had prescription drugs in their toxicology reports. That is just 16 percent. But it’s really less than that. According to the annual report, almost all of those people also had other illicit drugs or alcohol in their blood. So, these were drug addicts, not chronic, stable pain patients who were wrongly prescribed by doctors or who were made addicted by the evil pharmaceutical companies.
This is why the trajectory of prescription overdoses has actually stayed fairly stable, unlike the fatalities for cocaine and fentanyl. Here are some more charts from the Maryland Department of Health report:
This is also why 73 percent of all decedents were male. If anything, there are more female chronic pain patients. The fact that most of the deaths are males demonstrates once again that this is not a painkiller addiction problem but more of a cultural problem of drugs and alcohol of all sorts, which overwhelmingly affects males more than females.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room when discussing Maryland’s illicit poly-drug crisis, not prescription opioid crisis, is of course Baltimore City. It accounted for 37 percent of all drug deaths in Maryland last year, even though it is just 10 percent of the state’s population of six million. Nearly half of those fatalities were from cocaine, which is not even an opioid. Drug traffickers are lacing the psychostimulant (cocaine) with a killer depressant (fentanyl).
Baltimore City is where one can find the worst convergence of “criminal justice reform,” aka not locking up drug traffickers, and sanctuary cities, aka not turning over criminal aliens to ICE. The most common “low-level” crime that illegal aliens are picked up on is drugs. To begin with, American drug traffickers barely serve any time in prison any more, particularly in Baltimore. Maryland’s prison population has plummeted by 29 percent over the past decade and is now lower than at any time since the 1980s. No wonder crime is now spiking to pre-1990s levels and Baltimore is now on pace for another year of record homicides. It’s the same reason why the drug crisis is worse than ever.
But removing the criminal alien gangs and cartel networks from the country would increase the prices of these drugs because the networks would be disrupted. As Robert Murphy, the DEA special agent in charge of Atlanta, told me earlier this year: “The people who are here operating the networks are all illegal immigrants. … Without the people, the cartels have no success.”
Why did the prices decrease so much right around the surge of Central American migrants in 2013-2014? The amalgamation of Obama’s border policies together with sanctuary policies has protected all of these trafficking networks. No wonder Baltimore City has a higher drug mortality rate (56.6 per 100,000) than any county even in hard-hit New Hampshire.
So, the next time Baltimore politicians want to discuss “low-level” drug offenses and the need to protect criminal aliens from ICE, just remember this is the true source of thousands of dead residents of Baltimore. Any focus on health care is a distraction of epic proportions from open borders, sanctuary cities, and weak-on-crime policies the politicians don’t want you to know about.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.