Crush Chinese Labs to Smash Opioid Crisis.

  • by:
  • 08/21/2022

Supply and demand is the basic ingredient of any business deal. Unfortunately, the opioid crisis is big business. Deaths from opioid overdoses have doubled from 20,422 in 2009 to 42,249 in 2016. It’s a tragic epidemic for the victims, but good business for those pushing poison.

The primary trigger of this increase in overdose deaths is not legal prescription painkillers as many would believe, but illegal synthetic opioids.

President Trump declared a national health emergency in October 2017 in response to these widespread opioid deaths and solving the crisis has become one of his administration’s signature issues. Drug overdoses killed a record-breaking 72,300 Americans in 2017, more than the yearly death tolls for H.I.V, car crashes and gun deaths combined. The primary trigger of this increase in overdose deaths is not legal prescription painkillers as many would believe, but illegal synthetic opioids.

The President pledged to healthcare and addiction specialists that his administration is committed to end the opioid crisis “once and for all.” But can it really be stopped? Probably not. But it can be significantly reduced. The first step is to recognize and interrupt the supply sources. There are two:

  1. U.S. physicians who knowingly write bogus prescriptions;
  2. China and Mexico working in concert to manufacture illicit fentanyl in laboratories and ship the ingredients to Mexico for distribution.

[caption id="attachment_176535" align="alignnone" width="4109"] Province of British Columbia Flickr (CC)[/caption]

As overdose deaths from prescription opioids have leveled off and even started to decline over the last few years, deaths causes by illegal synthetic opioids have skyrocketed.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that the synthetic opioid fentanyl was the deadliest drug in 2016, causing more overdose deaths than oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and methadone combined. Given the potency of the drug, that is not hard to believe.

Fifty times stronger than heroin, fentanyl has near-immediate effects and only 2 milligrams – or 4 grains of salt – is enough to cause an overdose. While the drug has legitimate medical uses in strictly controlled settings, the fentanyl found on the streets today is not for medical use. It is illicitly manufactured in primitive laboratories and smuggled into the United States by the two big suppliers: Chinese laboratories and Mexican cartels.

China may be unable to enforce their new controlled substance rules.

China has recently taken steps to rein in their rogue laboratories by designating fentanyl as a controlled substance. Progress to be sure, but this has merely changed the dimensions of the crisis. 

China may be unable to enforce their new controlled substance rules.

Local authorities already have problems enforcing existing laws as the country does not have enough inspectors for facilities, and law enforcement lacks the resources to take samples from facilities and analyze whether it's a fentanyl-related structure.

The crackdown has some other shortcomings.

[caption id="attachment_176536" align="alignnone" width="3464"] David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering (Flickr, CC)[/caption]

China can ship components necessary to synthesize fentanyl to Mexico where it can be created in local labs. Mexican cartels would then act as “the primary conduit” for not only smuggling, and distributing, but also manufacturing illicit fentanyl for consumption in the United States.

If Chinese authorities do not execute tighter local controls on Chinese laboratories, the Trump administration must use whatever financial pressures are at its disposal, combined with the enhanced enforcement and tracking provisions contained in the STOP Act. This bill will close loopholes that allow China to exploit vulnerabilities in the international mail system and mail fentanyl directly to consumers in the United States via Mexican cartels. enforcement needs more support to step up illicit drug detection at the border.

Ending this foreign smuggling from Mexico and China is key to ensuring a healthy, drug free America. To do this, law enforcement needs more support to step up illicit drug detection at the border.

Bills like West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s bipartisan INTERDICT Act, signed into law by the president, will go a long way towards helping to stop the flow of illicit fentanyl across the border. The bill ensures that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the equipment, personnel and facilities they need by authorizing $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, lab equipment, facilities and personnel support.

[caption id="attachment_176537" align="alignnone" width="2048"] First Lady Melania Trump visits the “Prescribed to Death” opioid memorial | April 16, 2018 (Official White House Photo Andrea Hanks)[/caption]

After the bill’s passage in early 2018, fentanyl seizures at the border increased by 46 per cent. While this sounds like cause for celebration, officials say at the same time far more of the drug is getting through. Equipping CBP with additional resources and technologies to detect synthetic opioids will further stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into the U.S. at our legal ports of entry.

The Trump administration is taking steps to combat the opioid crisis, but it is time to shift their focus toward combatting the scourge of illegal synthetic opioids.

Without the proper tools to detect and seize illegal fentanyl, the drug has the potential to spread from coast to coast, killing more of our children. Great progress has been made to end the opioid crisis at the pharmacy and it’s time to provide law enforcement the resources to rein in the criminal activity that controls this latest iteration of the opioid crisis.

John Ligato is a retired special agent with the FBI. His latest book is “The Comey Gang” (Post Hill Press, 2019).



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