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By Christina Baxter, Emergency Response TIPS, LLC
Mike Cashman and Gary Sharp, Federal Resources

The Federal Resources Counter-Drug Training Team, led by a team of experienced narcotics officers from local, state, and federal levels, continuously monitors emerging trends in the drug trade Worldwide. These Emerging Trends are incorporated into the DrugIQ course offerings to ensure that DrugIQ-trained operators have the most up-to-date intelligence to incorporate into their operations at their home agencies. All DrugIQ courses offer the user simple, easy-to-employ operating guidelines that can be adopted or adapted to suit an agency’s unique needs.

Synthetic Opioids: The rapid rise in the use of synthetic opioids in the United States and partner countries continues to be a focal point of the counterdrug community due to the large volumes of materials coming into the United States and the continuous rise in deaths associated with it. In January 2019 alone, greater than 137.5 kg (303 lbs) of fentanyl powder has been seized along the southern border.  Keep in mind that this is above and beyond the seizures of fentanyl-laced fake Oxy-30s flooding across the border by the thousands.  There does appear to be a trend of cutting product and manufacturing pills prior to transfer across the southern border to increase profit, whereas materials coming in from Chinese sources continue to be low volume, high purity.

Synthetic Cannabinoids:  Synthetic cannabinoids have caused many mass overdose situations, including the May 2018 incident in New York City and the August 2018 incident in New Haven, CT. The New Haven incident had greater than 100 K2-related overdoses in a 48-hour period.  Thankfully, this occurred in an area of our nation with one of the most advanced emergency medical systems where they were able to implement a makeshift clinic near the epicenter of the problem on the New Haven Green, a city park, to minimize time to respond.  K2 and Spice continue to be the most popular products.

Marijuana:  The increase in marijuana legalization brings along its own unique set of issues, including the cultivation of marijuana, the extraction of hash oil from the marijuana plants, and the productization of marijuana-infused products.  It is worth noting that the THC content in marijuana has risen from the 4% range in the 1980s to over 30% today.  The most problematic of the extraction processes continues to be the butane or propane-based hash oil extractions which use a liquified gas under pressure to extract and purify the THC.  As these flammable liquids expand into the vapor phase, considerable explosion threats exist.

Club Drugs:  Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) has made a significant resurgence in recent months, as is evidenced by just short of 400 kg of liquid GBL being confiscated in packages coming directly from China into the United States.  GBL is absorbed faster than GHB, is more bioavailable via ingestion, and rapidly coverts to GHB in the blood; all of these characteristics makes it the “Date Rape Drug” of choice.  To put it into context, the 400 kg of liquid GBL translates into more than 240,000 doses.  GBL is a colorless, oily liquid with a slight smell that is water soluble, making it easy to mix into a person’s drink unknowingly.  The onset of symptoms begins in 10 – 30 minutes and have a duration of 1 -2 hours.

Methamphetamine:  While methamphetamine is not receiving as much press, there were still over 1000 lbs seized at the Southern Border in January 2019 alone.  Methamphetamine is not going away, but it is not produced as much in the US due to the low cost of the material coming across our Southern Border.

Cocaine:  The United States continues to be the World-leader in cocaine usage with more than 50 lbs being seized at the Southern Border in January 2019.