Included below are resources curated for Challenge entrants. Use of the resources is optional but encouraged.

Note: All links are provided for informational purposes only.

The opioid crisis

The following resources provide basic information about the opioid crisis and statistics regarding its scale, the drugs involved and its effect on American communities.

  • Opioid Crisis Statistics. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Statistics about opioid use and abuse in the United States, such as overdose rate, types of drugs involved and change over time.
  • The Effects of the Opioid Crisis. Vox Media. Article explaining the effects of the opioid crisis on public health in the United States, and how this effect has increased sharply in the last several years.
  • Fentanyl: The Next Wave of the Opioid Crisis. Department of Homeland Security. Congressional testimony of a DHS officer detailing the new and growing impact of fentanyl from an enforcement perspective.
  • 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment. Drug Enforcement Administration. Provides a retrospective of drug abuse and trafficking across different drugs in the United States in 2018.

Synthetic opioids overview

The following resources detail the physical, chemical and pharmacological properties of synthetic opioids.

  • The Difference Between Opiates and Opioids. Alta Mira Recovery Programs. Primer on the different terms used to describe drugs, such as opioids, opiates and narcotics.
  • The Big List of Narcotic Drugs. American Addiction Centers. Overview of various drugs, including information such as physical characteristics, effects, and legal status.
  • An Overview of Opioids. Pharmacy Times. Describes the pharmacological effects of various common synthetic opioids.
  • Properties of Fentanyl. PubChem, NIH. Details the chemistry and physics of the fentanyl molecule.
  • Synthetic Reefer MadnessNPR Planet Money. Investigative report explaining the rise of synthetic drugs, and the challenges they pose in terms of regulation and enforcement.

The international mail system

The following resources provide information regarding the U.S. component of the international mail system.

  • International Service Centers Overview. United States Postal Service. Description of International Service Centers, their locations and their role as the linchpin between the international and domestic mail systems.
  • Process Map. Overview of the inspection process which parcels undergo when they enter international service centers.

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Synthetic opioids trafficking

The following resources provide an overview of postal drug trafficking, the journey opioids take from origin to destination and the challenges enforcement agencies are facing.

U.S. government approach to interdicting opioids

The following resources detail what policies and protocols are in place currently to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States, as well as the near-term plans to address the opioid crisis.

  • The White House Opioids Policy. The White House. This document details the administration’s three-pronged strategy to address the opioid crisis.
  • Summary of the STOP Act. GovTrack Insider. Explanation of the STOP Act, which became law as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act of 2018, and which seeks to address the problem of opioids entering the United States through international mail. (Full text of the SUPPORT Act is available here.)
  • DHS Opioids Policy. Department of Homeland Security. Explains the approach DHS is taking to address the supply side of the opioid crisis. DHS is the sponsoring agency for the Opioid Detection Challenge and works to complement initiatives to address the demand side of the opioid crisis, as well as disrupt supply.
  • CBP Mail Inspection Policy. Customs and Border Protection. Explains the powers possessed by CBP officers in regard to inspecting mail. CBP is an agency within DHS, and CBP officers will be users of solution technologies sourced from the Opioid Detection Challenge.
  • Equipment in Use by DHS. Department of Homeland Security. Details the major types of equipment currently used by DHS, and by extension CBP, to detect opioids in the mail.
  • About USPIS. United States Postal Service. Overview of the United States Postal Inspection Service, their role within USPS and how they interact with mail inspection. USPIS is one of the partnering agencies in the Opioid Detection Challenge.
    • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the Postal Service. They work to ensure America’s confidence in the U.S. Mail by enforcing more than 200 federal laws in investigations of crimes that may adversely affect postal customers or fraudulently use the U.S. Mail or the postal system. U.S. Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement agents who conduct investigations of postal-related crimes, such as mail fraud and theft, violent crimes against postal employees, revenue fraud, dangerous mail, illegal drugs in the mail, and child exploitation conducted via the mail.
    • Contraband Interdiction and Investigations (CI2) is a team of cross-functional subject matters experts within the Postal Inspection Service specifically focused on narcotics and firearms trafficking through the mail, both international and domestic. CI2 aggressively investigates, arrests, and dismantles drug trafficking networks and utilizes intelligence to effectively target and seize dangerous drugs nationwide.
  • About ONDCP. White House. Overview of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, with links to ONDCP-related news, as well as drug policy information. ONDCP is one of the partnering agencies in the Opioid Detection Challenge.

Sample data

The following sample data are provided to help with the development of imaging based solutions. Additional data will be available in Stage 2. 

  • X-Ray Sample Images. Example images of parcels containing contraband (including opioids), scanned in international mail facilities.
  • Exterior Sample Images. Example images of the exterior of parcels. Unredacted images will be available in Stage 2.

Target performance metrics

The government seeks to develop the solutions sourced in this Challenge into tools which can be deployed throughout the international mail system and beyond in the United States. The below performance specifications represent target thresholds the government is interested in for implemented solutions. These specifications are intended for guidance only, and may be subject to change:

Attribute Threshold Target (Objective)
Time to detect < 10s < 2s
Limit of detection < 100 g < 50 g
False positive < 15% < 5%
False negative < 20% < 10%