As part of its recently announced “360 Strategy” to combat heroin and opioid abuse and their links to violet crime in cities, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) held a Pharmacy Diversion Awareness Conference (PDAC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the pilot city of the initiative. The strategy was enacted in order to “provide as much information as possible in many different forms to reach young people” and adopted a three-fold approach to fighting drug traffickers.
The DEA expected hundreds of pharmacists from the region to attend the event, which was hosted by the DEA’s Associate Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversion Control, Demetra Ashley, and the city’s Field Division Special Agency in Charge, Gary Tuggle, and was held on December 10-11, 2015.
At the PDAC, Tuggle highlighted the connection between heroin and prescription drug use noting that “eight out of ten new heroin users started by abusing prescription opioids.” He stressed that a key component to the agency’s “360 Strategy” was explaining this link to pharmacy professionals. The DEA also described the conference as “free training designed to assist pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and loss prevention personnel employed by pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics in identifying and preventing diversion.”
In November of 2015, the DEA announced that Pittsburg would be the pilot city for the new initiative that would combat drug trafficking by focusing on its ties to heroin and opioid abuse in that area. To do so, the agency had a three-fold approach, to: (1) provide DEA leadership to target all levels of trafficking; (2) ensure a long-lasting effect by engaging drug manufacturers, pharmacists, wholesalers, and practitioners and increasing awareness of heroin and prescription opioid abuse and encouraging responsible prescribing practices; and (3) change attitudes in the community to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Although the DEA noted that the heroin and prescription opioid drug abuse issue is a national epidemic, the pilot was focused in Pittsburgh as Western Pennsylvania was identified as an area of concern. When the details behind the initiative were first released, Tuggle announced that the work of law enforcement and other partner agencies were already making progress on the city’s drug problem.