Fewer Opioids From China Important Advance in U.S. Opioid Epidemic

A move by the Chinese government in response to a request from the both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Department to reduce various opioids from being exported to the United States is being heralded as game-changer by the DEA.

The National Narcotics Control Commission in China announced that beginning March 1, 2017, carfentanil, several thousand times stronger than heroin and three synthetic opioids, acryl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl and valeryl fentanyl will be added to that nation’s controlled substances list.

In October 2015, when China had added 116 synthetic drugs to its controlled substance list, the DEA noticed a significant decrease in those substances in the United States. It is anticipated that the same thing will happen with the four new substances to be added to China’s controlled substances list, decreasing the likelihood that heroin dealers will be lacing their product with the less expensive but more potent and deadly substances.

Russell Baer, a DEA special agent explained, “It’s a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States. We’re persuaded it will have a definite impact.”

Each of the four new drugs to be added to China’s controlled substances list in less than a month is prevalent in the United States drug supply, according to Baer.

Both the United States and Canada have intercepted shipments of carfentanil sent from China to individuals who ordered the potent drug from suppliers in that country over the internet. Between July 2016 and November 2016, the DEA seized numerous kilograms of carfentanil – over 400 cases in that five-month period. Canadian authorities seized a kilogram of carfentanil in June 2016 that had been sent from China.

What’s been good for the profit margins of heroin dealers has often been deadly for heroin users, some of whom are addicted to heroin itself and others who found their way to heroin after becoming addicted to prescription opioid pain pills. During a 10-day period in July 2016, the Akron, Ohio area experienced 91 opioid overdoses resulting in eight deaths, at least two of which were confirmed to be from a heroin/carfentanil combination. It’s a scene that been repeated throughout that state and a number of others in the months since then.

Related Reading: The Futility of the Fight Against Drug Addiction

Naloxone, the medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, is often ineffective in reversing overdoses from fentanyl and carfentanil due to their potency. A few granules of carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer, can be fatal to a human being whether injected, snorted or even absorbed through the skin. It is for this reason that some police forces have ceased field testing of powdery substances to prevent illness or overdose in the testing police officer.

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