CLAIRE GUTE WRITES — The ongoing opioid crisis continues to plague much of America. Many have been affected by the opioid crisis in some form, whether knowing someone who has become addicted, overdosed, or lost her or his livelihood. What’s new is that it may be getting worse due to the increasing amount of fentanyl produced by criminal groups in China and exported to the U.S.
According to Adriana Belmonte of Yahoo Finance, “Fentanyl is a highly lethal, synthetic opioid that’s been making its way through the U.S. over the last decade. The greatest source of this illicit drug is China.” Organized crime in China manufactures chemicals that can be trafficked through cartel groups in Mexico; Naveed Jamali and Tom O’Connor write, the “global network of Chinese criminal groups are fueling the fentanyl crisis.” Organized crime groups in China and cartel groups in Mexico have essentially formed a partnership that is responsible for much of the drug trade entering the United States.
Raymond Donovan, DEA of New York City Division Special Agent-in-charge, believes there would be an “immediate change” in the United States if the Chinese government took action in regulating “the export of precursor chemicals to Central America.”
Here’s how it works: After the chemical ingredients used to produce fentanyl are imported from China, the drugs are manufactured in Mexico, then smuggled over the Southern border of the United States. In addition, cartels can “stamp fentanyl into pills” so that they resemble prescription drugs like Adderall and Xanax. According to the DEA, two out of five of these fake pills contain potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
In 2018, President Trump cut a deal with China to classify fentanyl as a controlled substance. President Biden has also criticized China for not doing enough to stop drug trafficking. In July, he said he “’will continue this encounter with China’ to attempt to stem the flow of deadly drugs being smuggled into the United States via Mexico.” He also spoke on plans to combat the opioid crisis by increasing the number of people working in this area at the Department of Justice.
In fact, a significant part of President Biden’s 2020 campaign was about putting an end to the opioid crisis. The “Biden Plan to End the Opioid Crisis” includes ideas such as adding onto Obamacare to fund prevention and treatment services, holding big pharma accountable, and stopping the “flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl, especially from China and Mexico.”
And yet, since President Trump left the White House, the number of overdoses and deaths from opioids has skyrocketed. According to preliminary data from the Washington State Department of Health, the first three months of 2021 show an increase of about 40 overdoses, 46% being linked to fentanyl. New Jersey has also seen a 6% increase in overdoses from 2020, as of June. According to NJ Spotlight News, there could be over 3,000 deaths at the current rate. In Colorado, there is an average of two fentanyl related deaths a day.
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Drug Seizures Statistics exhibit a substantial increase in the total weight of fentanyl seized. So far, the 2021 FYTD total weight is at 10,469 pounds, which accounts for 51.45% of the total drugs seized. The prior year’s totals remained between 2,283 and 4,791 pounds of seized fentanyl. It is arguable that there is a much greater amount of fentanyl entering the country as the seized amount is just the tip of the iceberg.
Why is this happening? Many people identify this uptick in conjunction with the pandemic, the current open border policy, and the increase of drug trafficking from China.
As a result, health officials are encouraging people to carry Naloxone, an injectable medication that can reverse an opioid overdose in minutes. Naloxone is a drug regularly administered to heroin addicts; it normally requires a prescription but many pharmacies now do not require one in the hopes that more lives will be saved.
While Biden has promised to do something about the epidemic, his rhetoric is contradictory to his border policy decisions. The administration must control and monitor the borders to a much greater extent, which will reduce the amount of illegal drugs pouring into the Southern border from China. Securing the border is essential in protecting both Americans’ and immigrants’ lives from the illicit drugs that are ravaging communities. It should be a top priority for the Biden Administration to uphold its promise of ending the opioid crisis. Wasn’t that a major part of his campaign?