The Rising Fatality of Fentanyl

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Posted: Mar 14, 2019 5:15 PM
The Rising Fatality of Fentanyl

Source: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

A new addictive killer, unrecognized by the prior administration, could soon take as many lives annually as traffic accidents,The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

In May 2016, 11 public health officials wrote to six officials from the Obama administration, asking them to get an emergency declaration on the rising fentanyl epidemic. A few months afterward, the administration declared the Zika virus a public health emergency. They asked Congress to put $1.9 billion into preventing the virus from spreading to the U.S.

It turned out that only two people in the nation died from the effects of Zika. While that was going on, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned about counterfeit pain pills laced with fentanyl.

“In the span of a few short years,” the article reads. “Fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller 50 times more powerful than heroin, became the drug scourge of our time. Fentanyl has played a key role in reducing the overall life expectancy for Americans.”

The Post reported that more than 67,000 people in the U.S. died of a synthetic-opioid-related overdose between 2013 and 2017. The year 2017 alone held more than a third of those deaths. It marked the first year that, “fentanyl became the leading cause of overdose deaths in America.”

Where do the drugs come from? Mexico? The Caribbean? It turns out that that’s only the partial truth.

The Heritage Foundation published an article on May 5, revealing that China is to blame.

“The People’s Republic of China, the biggest source of the fentanyl problem, is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of pharmaceutical ingredients,” Heritage noted. “Perhaps 40 percent of global pharmaceutical output is from China, yet the communist regime has few laws governing controlled substances such as fentanyl.”

The article cites a statement made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Oct. 2, 2018, which details the smuggling process.

“From China, these substances are shipped primarily through mail carriers directly to the U.S., or through TCOs in Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean,” the report states. “Once in the Western Hemisphere, fentanyl or its analogues are prepared and then either mixed into heroin supply, or pressed into pill form, then moved to the illicit U.S. market where dependency on prescription opioids and heroin remains at epidemic proportions. In some cases, traffickers have shipped industrial pill presses from China to the United States to operate fentanyl pill press mills domestically.”

Heritage wrote that the Chinese Communist Party, who has the authority to seize production, made minimal effort to do so. China promised at the December G-20 talks to identify fentanyl as a controlled substance. But so far that’s all that’s come out of it, a promise. China’s National Narcotics Control Bureau made, “scheduling controls on two key fentanyl precursor chemicals,” as well, but it’s proven to be ineffective at stopping the massive export.

Heritage came up with three solutions that the Trump administration can make to combat the epidemic. These include diversifying sources on ingredients so that China doesn’t lead the competition in the pharmaceutical industry, working together with Europe to pressure China into actively fighting the fentanyl issue and making domestic decisions to combat the crisis. 

The Trump administration has already made efforts to take the fentanyl epidemic seriously. Not only by tightening security at the southern border but also by getting China to enforce tighter laws on the deadly drug, including the addition of a death penalty to drug dealers.

“So that’s frankly one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal,” Trump said to reporters in February. “If you wanna know the truth, I think there’s no more important point.”