If approved by the Senate, Gupta would serve as the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and would be responsible for tackling the staggering 30 percent increase in overdose deaths that the U.S. saw in 2020. The figure is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Rahul Gupta to be the first physician ever to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is another historic step in the Administration’s efforts to turn the tide of our nation’s addiction and overdose epidemic,” a White House spokesperson said Tuesday.
West Virginia has led the nation in opioid-related deaths for the last 20 years, Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday.
Manchin applauded Biden’s decision and said his nomination “means someone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis…will be coordinating the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation.”
Gupta’s role as top dog in countering U.S. drug abuse is made no easier by the increase in drug trafficking at the southern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported that despite border closures throughout the pandemic, drug trafficking has remained a constant problem.
Cartels reportedly shifted trafficking strategies by relying on American citizens to transport drugs as they were able to more freely commute across the border.
Between October 2020 and March this year, U.S. citizens were apprehended for drug trafficking seven times more frequently than Mexican nationals, according to the CBP.
Hard drugs, like methamphetamine and synthetic opioid fentanyl, continued to pour into the U.S. at a time when usage was on the rise – a crisis Gupta has argued was exacerbated by the pandemic.
But substantial drug trafficking is no longer limited to the ports of entry, where the majority of drugs have historically entered the U.S.
Authorities have reported an increase in the amount of fentanyl found in between border crossing checkpoints over the last three years, first reported NBC News.
This year alone, roughly 41 pounds of the deadly drug have been found by authorities in the desert lands between ports of entry – up from nine pounds in 2020 and two pounds in 2019.
Two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly, and just over two pounds of the drug has the ability to kill up to 500,000 people, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Gupta, who most recently served as chief medical officer at the March of Dimes, garnered national attention for his data-driven response to the opioid crisis in his home state.
“Dr. Gupta brings firsthand experience as a medical doctor and public health official using evidence-based strategies to address the overdose epidemic in West Virginia,” a White House spokesman said. “We hope he will be confirmed by the Senate soon.”