If, in 2015, someone had told you that the number of overdose deaths caused solely by the two
most historically lethal drugs—heroin and cocaine—would drop by more than half by 2021, you
would likely have assumed that the overdose crisis in the U.S. was finally coming to an end. Instead,
drug overdose deaths soared to more than 100,000 per year due to the rise of synthetic drugs, a
truly disruptive innovation with which U.S. drug policy is only beginning to grapple.
Drug policy analysts, including the authors of this brief, are swamped with requests from desperate
policymakers, clinicians, parents, and activists to find solutions to the problem of synthetic drugs.
This issue brief comprises an answer.