As Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Philadelphia Field Division, I welcome you to Operation Engage!
Tragically, the staggering number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses has continued to devastate communities and families throughout the United States, with a severe impact on the Philadelphia region. The opioid epidemic and other emerging drug threats have been exacerbated throughout the pandemic, with an increasing rate of overdose deaths that continue to date. In 2020, there were 93,331 drug overdose deaths in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data), a record number and 29.4% increase from 2019. Synthetic opioids, primarily illicit fentanyl, were the main cause of these deaths.
In 2020, Philadelphia had a total of 1,214 overdose deaths (Philadelphia Department of Public Health data), the second highest number in the city’s history, which included a significant
increase in Black and Hispanic overdose deaths. According to the data, 81% of the 2020 overdose deaths in Philadelphia included fentanyl, which has also been increasingly found in many other drugs, including stimulants (cocaine and methamphetamine), counterfeit pills of different classes, and others, with widespread availability. The data also revealed that 48% of the Philadelphia overdose deaths contained an opioid (primarily fentanyl) and a stimulant, which reflects the continuing trend of poly-drug use in the region.
As part of DEA’s community outreach efforts, the Philadelphia Field Division provides a comprehensive and holistic range of resources, programs, and services under Operation Engage.
This grassroots approach to community service complements DEA’s enforcement efforts with drug education/prevention curriculum, online resources for all age groups and adults, after-
school programs, special events, and many others. DEA recognizes the importance of a holistic strategy and collaboration with partners in all sectors to address the drug threats, related
violence, and challenges facing our community. While the primary focus of DEA’s resources is on drug education/prevention, we fully support treatment/recovery and remain steadfast in the effort to eliminate the stigma of substance use disorder and related disorders.
I invite you and your families to explore the many resources, programs, and services under Operation Engage. I urge you to contact the Philadelphia Field Division Community Outreach
Unit via telephone #215-861-3476 or via the staff email addresses listed in this website with any questions, requests for presentations, events, and/or partnership ideas and opportunities to further our collaborative efforts.
Below is a brief summary of Operation Engage components, outlined in this website:
Stakeholder/ Engagement: DEA partners with stakeholders in all sectors, sharing the latest information about drug trends, threats, and other pertinent information, working together on events/initiatives. Additional partnerships continue to be explored and sought.
Adult/Community Engagement: Includes town halls, parent workshops, coalition capacity building, community summits, and other special events, with a focus on communities in need
and most affected by the drug threats and challenges, ensuring resources are available to all.
DEA Citizens Academy: DEA recognizes the importance of forging strong alliances with local communities and maintaining collaborative relationships with community leaders. The DEA
Citizens Academy offers participants the opportunity to understand the world of federal drug law enforcement and the significant role DEA and the community plays in combating drug
trafficking, substance misuse, and related violence.
School/Youth Engagement: In addition to offering curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school student age groups, DEA recognizes the need for sustained drug education, youth
empowerment, positive and healthy activities, youth leadership, and other core principles through presentations, youth summits, teen academies, and special events, as well as educator
workshops and training opportunities. Working with the DEA Educational Foundation, DEA provides various after-school programs to youth, to include dance, baseball, art, basketball, and
Workplace Engagement: Presentations, special events, and resources, including Operation Prevention workplace modules, are available to address the significant impact substance misuse
has in the workplace.
Media Engagement: DEA recognizes the importance of promoting drug awareness/current threats, prevention/treatment/recovery resources, special events, documentaries, and others through all media platforms.
Toolkit for Local Engagement: The Operation Engage microsite is continuously populated with a holistic array of DEA and partner resources, programs, special events, training opportunities, and other relevant information for access to all members of the community.
Always at your service,
Top Local Drug Threat
Fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, is the Philadelphia area's top local drug threat, according to local officials. In 2021, Philadelphia had a total of 1,276 overdose deaths according to data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. In addition, 82% of the 2021 overdose deaths in Philadelphia included fentanyl. This powerful drug has also been found in cocaine, methamphetamine, counterfeit pills, and others.
Rise in Unintentional Overdoses
From 2013 to 2017, the total number of unintentional drug overdose deaths increased each year. In 2018, Philadelphia saw its first decrease in the total number of yearly unintentional drug overdose deaths, however, in 2020, unintentional overdose deaths increased by 9% and 6% from 2018 and 2019, respectively. Philadelphia saw this trend continue in 2021, with the number of unintentional overdose deaths increasing by 5% since 2020. In 2021, 31% of unintentional overdose deaths involved only an opioid, such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl, and 15% of unintentional overdose deaths involved only a stimulant, such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Notably, in 2021, 52% of unintentional overdose deaths involved both an opioid and a stimulant.
Xylazine, reported as an adulterant in an increasing number of illicit drug mixtures, has also been detected in a growing number of overdose deaths. It is commonly encountered in combination with fentanyl but has also been detected in mixtures containing cocaine, heroin, and a variety of other drugs. However, xylazine is most frequently reported in combinations with two or more substances present. In addition to its presence in drug combinations, xylazine (often known as “tranq”) is used on its own, though this is less frequently reported. Limited scientific research has been conducted on the effects of xylazine on the human body, but anecdotal reports indicate that users experience effects similar to opioids. Xylazine can lead to depression of the central nervous system along with other adverse effects, as reported in scientific and medical journals; the presence of xylazine in illicit drug combinations and its detection in fatal overdoses may be more widespread than reported as a number of jurisdictions across the country may not include xylazine in forensic laboratory or toxicology testing.
Many fake pills, created to look to legitimate prescription medication, contain dangerous and sometimes deadly amounts of fentanyl.
One Pill Can Kill
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns the American public of the
alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans.
These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists. Read more.
See Related: Check out this Counterfeit Pills factsheet.
In the Community...
Mark your calendars for these upcoming local drug prevention events:
February 2023 – Faith Based Summit
April 22, 2023 and October 2023 – National Take Back Day
DEA Citizens Academy – TBD, info will be posted when available
DEA Teen Academy – TBD, info will be posted when available
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse.
Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin.
Related: Learn more about fentanyl's effect on the nation from DEA's perspective in the National Drug Threat Assessment.
Here's a list of local organizations that provide services to the public regarding addiction, community empowerment, drug education and prevention, drug take back programs, recovery, and overall health and wellness.
The Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc. (BCDAC) serves as the Single County Authority (SCA) for alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention, intervention and treatment and recovery support services.
Struggling with COVID? Go to their site for local resources.
Need info about proper medicine disposal? Visit their site to learn more about their medication collection program.
Philly HopeLine is a free helpline sponsored by Uplift Center for Grieving Children and the School District of Philadelphia. It is staffed by Masters' level clinicians from Uplift, and is open to all School District of Philadelphia students & families.
If you feel lonely, stressed, sad, angry, or confused...
CALL OR TEXT FOR FREE 1-833-PHL-HOPE (1-833-745-4673)
Mondays – Fridays 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Holidays, Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Looking for prevention resources specifically for young people? Go to the teen-focused site www.justthinktwice.com/. Here, they'll be able to get facts about drug use and learn ways to live a drug-free life.
In addition check out the local organization below.
Hip Hop Fundamentals
Hip Hop Fundamentals is a group of local break dancers. In addition to their high energy performances, they get students involved through dance instruction. They do a great job interacting with the youth, while highlighting anti-drug messages.
Go to FindTreatment.gov to search for general drug treatment facilities in your area. On this site, you can find facilities that offer various payment options (including free and no-cost care), youth treatment facilities, special programs for Veterans, plus more.
Otherwise, enter your zipcode below to find substance abuse treatment facilities in your area.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that rapidly binds to opioid receptors, blocking heroin from activating them. An appropriate dose of naloxone acts in less than 2 minutes and completely eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication to reverse an opioid overdose.
Finding Naloxone in Philadelphia
In Philadelphia, you can get naloxone through either your doctor's prescription or through the statewide standing order written for the general public by Dr. Rachel Levine. Many pharmacies have the order on file, but you can also download it here.
Overdose Free PA’s website has a naloxone locator. Just enter in your address or zip code to find the nearest clinic or pharmacy.
Prevention Point Philadelphia is a local, private nonprofit organization that promotes health and safety in communities affected by drug use and poverty.
The group provides training at their location on how to use naxolone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, throughout the year. Get more information on their website.
Within the standing order, there are also instructions on how to use both Narcan and injectable naloxone. See them here.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also has information about naloxone trainings and more on their website.
Delaware Building Bridges Conference: DEA Virtual Exhibit
Check out this video of DEA's Virtual Exhibit that was featured at the conference. This presentation includes various community outreach components: including Operation Engage, online resources, youth summits/video clips, Red Ribbon, Take Back, and others. Watch.
Connect With Us!
Please DO NOT submit tips using the feedback form on this page.
Use the official tips page (https://www.dea.gov/submit-tip) to report what appears to you as a possible violation of controlled substances laws and regulations.
Tips submitted to the feedback form below WILL NOT be addressed.
DEA. 16 November, 2020. Operation Engage Philadelphia. Retrieved from https://admin.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia on 8 February, 2023
DEA. "Operation Engage Philadelphia."Drug Enforcement Agency, 16 November, 2020, https://admin.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia Accessed 8 February, 2023.
DEA. . Drug Enforcement Agency on DEA website. https://admin.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-philadelphia. 16 November, 2020. Accessed 8 February, 2023.