Schar School Professor Louise Shelley Details the National Opioid Crisis for Congress

Louise I. ShelleyDuring her testimony before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in late March, Schar School of Policy and Government professor Louise Shelley told members of Congress how the opioid epidemic in Europe differs from that in the United States.

“In general,” she said in an interview, “people are not dying in Europe from the drug crisis. That’s what’s really distinctive.”

Shelley, the director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at the Schar School, pointed out that in the United States, “our death rate from drugs is about 7 to 10 times higher than Europe,” and that 40,000 opioid drug-related deaths each year in the United States pales by comparison with Europe’s 8,000 deaths among a much larger population.

Shelley said that the drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid said to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, is in part responsible for the dramatic death rate.

“It’s coming into the U.S. from China and Latin America and not entering the European markets,” she said.

Internet drug sales are also responsible, she said.

“The U.S. has the most online drug sales than anywhere else in the world. We’ve got all these [online retail] platforms to sell things and we have social media—Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat—they’re all a part of this illicit drug trade.”

The discussion, “The Opioid Crisis and the Dark Web: How Transnational Criminals Devastate U.S. Communities,” aired on C-SPAN; the video is here.