I’m glad to join the U.S.-Mexico Synthetic Drug Conference.
To our Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, and our Assistant Secretary Todd Robinson: Thank you for your commitment to making people safer and healthier on both sides of the border.
And to our partners in the Mexican government, particularly Foreign Secretary Ebrard: Thank you for your leadership on this critical priority.
Today, this group has gathered to discuss one of the most important challenges facing our people: illicit synthetic drugs.
We’re all too familiar with the statistics.
In the United States, fentanyl is the leading cause of death among people between 18 and 49 years old. In 2021, we lost more than 100,000 Americans to drug overdoses; 70 percent of those were from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. And synthetic drugs are threatening lives around the world, including in Mexico.
Synthetic drugs are easier to make, transport, and sell than plant-based drugs. They’re more potent and dangerous. And they pose an extraordinary risk to our populations.
President Biden is committed to ending this deadly epidemic. Our Administration has allocated over $24 billion in the last year to strengthen public health interventions, and expanded access to treatment, prevention, and recovery tools, including naloxone and fentanyl testing strips, which can help reduce overdose deaths. We’re also working to target and disrupt trafficking networks in the United States, and arrest those who seek to profit off this epidemic.
But no one country or government can stop the spread of synthetic drugs alone. This is a shared problem, with shared responsibility.
That’s why the United States is working closely with other governments – together with public health experts, doctors, business leaders, and law enforcement officials – to tackle this transnational challenge.
Mexico is one of our closest partners in this fight.
Today, our nations are updating and adapting our long-standing partnership on transnational narcotics challenges, working to forge a comprehensive, agile, and effective approach to synthetic drugs.
Under President Biden and President Lopez Obrador, the United States and Mexico are acting to disrupt illicit supply chains and curb the production and distribution of legal chemicals used to make drugs, including through exchanges of forensic scientists.
We’re targeting organized crime and drug traffickers, and intercepting drug shipments. In the last year alone, we used U.S. technology to seize over 1.3 million fentanyl pills together, at borders, ports, and other checkpoints. And that’s on top of the work our countries did individually to get drugs off our streets.
Our countries are improving early warning systems, to track emerging drugs before they spread through our communities.
We’re also working to prevent and treat addition, promote public health, and build safer communities, with the United States sharing what we’ve learned to support Mexico’s efforts.
Mexico and the United States are also working with other countries to address this crisis. Earlier this month at a G20 Ministerial, for the first time, the world’s leading economies called for strong, international cooperation against illicit synthetic drugs: recognizing that this is a global health and security threat that requires the full force of our combined efforts.
To build on this cross-border collaboration, the U.S. and Canada committed to build a new global coalition against synthetic drugs. This coalition will launch this summer and bring together countries from around the world to develop and implement solutions to this crisis, from supporting public health measures, to growing our partnerships with the private sector. For example, we can help prevent the diversion of licit precursors into the illicit production of synthetic opioids through better information sharing, labeling, and “know your customer” programs. I encourage countries who are interested in participating to get involved.
So much is at stake: The countless lives that can still be saved. Children who can still grow up with their parents. Communities that can remain whole.
That’s what’s at the heart of our conference this week. And I’m grateful to each of you participating, for contributing your expertise and leadership to help protect our people.