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Fentanyl Smuggling

Smuggling of the deadly Synthetic opioid FENTANYL

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a dire warning on March 15, 2024, cautioning that nations worldwide are teetering on the brink of a fentanyl crisis akin to the devastating epidemic gripping the United States. Speaking at a United Nations conference in Vienna, Austria, dedicated to addressing the proliferation of narcotics and synthetic street drugs, Blinken underscored the urgency of the situation. He emphasized that while the U.S. has borne the brunt of the crisis initially, other countries are now witnessing its catastrophic impact. As the first U.S. Secretary of State to address the annual U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Blinken highlighted the concerning trajectory of the global drug crisis. Experts attribute the rapid spread of fentanyl in the U.S. to the operations of powerful Mexican cartels, which traffic the deadly substance across the southern border. Blinken emphasized that synthetic drugs, particularly fentanyl, have become the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 45, signaling a critical need for international collaboration and action to address this escalating threat. In September 2021, Rory Booth (pseudo-name for privacy concerns) found his then-16-year-old daughter, Sofi, gasping for air in their home near Boulder, Colorado. His daughter was suffering from an overdose. She had taken half a Percocet pill laced with Fentanyl unknowingly. Sofi Booth said,” I found some powder substance. I crushed it up and took a line. I felt kind of sparkly for two seconds and then I woke up in the hospital.” Sergeant of the Lafayette Colorado Police Department arrived on the scene in minutes and started chest compressions. He quickly administered Narcan to an unconscious and barely breathing Sofi and took her to the hospital.On that day, Sofi Booth survived. Others who have experienced Fentanyl-linked drug overdoses were not as lucky. We will explore what is Fentanyl, how it impacts human health, how it is smuggled around the world, and how it has impacted US-China relations over the years in this investigative report. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. However, despite its excellent pain-receiving capacity, its use as an opioid/narcotic drug is gaining attention worldwide. There are loads of Fentanyl addicts worldwide, mostly in rich economies, and most recent cases of Fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death are linked to illegally made Fentanyl. This is where the role of China as the hub of the illegal Fentanyl supply chain comes to the forefront. How potent is Fentanyl? Fentanyl is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.  Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more than morphine. Just two milligrams (2mg) of Fentanyl, or the amount that could fit on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially lethal dose. How does Fentanyl affect your body? Fentanyl produces multifarious effects such as relaxation, elation, exhilaration, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, tiredness, sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression. Fentanyl Production Hub China was the source of 97% of inbound shipments of high-purity Fentanyl during 2016 and 2017 and over 70% after it. Synthetic opioid vendors favor working out of China’s industrial hinterlands, where policing can be less strict. Of the 92 Fentanyl and Fentanyl-analog selling entities C4ADS was able to identify with location details, 41% listed their corporate address in Shijiazhuang. Fentanyl Trafficking Routes The hub of the Fentanyl smuggling to the world is China which sends API and precursors to the final Fentanyl to countries in South Asia like Myanmar. India and Vietnam are also major victims of these products. From these countries and other informal routes, Fentanyl reaches Australia, Mexico, and European markets. These drugs are then smuggled to countries like the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Brazil and in limited amounts to Africa. In Mexico, many prominent cartels smuggle Fentanyl to the USA. Sinaloa is one of the oldest and most established cartels in Mexico that smuggles Fentanyl received from China and Myanmar. Other than Sinaloa, Guadalajara, Mexico-based Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) is one of the most powerful and fastest-growing Fentanyl cartels in Mexico.  Following is a schematic diagram to show how Fentanyl reaches the buyers from the traders through the dark web and the use of cryptocurrency. Seizures of illicit Fentanyl and other opioids at international mail facilities (IMFs) have increased over the last few years. Though Fentanyl seizures made at land crossings are higher in number and larger in volume, the Fentanyl seizures from mail and express consignment carrier (ECC) facilities are more potent. The majority of illicit Fentanyl in the international mail and ECC environments are shipped with purities of over 90%. Which countries are most affected? Fentanyl is most prevalent in Germany, the USA, Spain, France, and Italy among others. The significant points to ponder here are : 1. Despite the high prevalence of Fentanyl in European countries, most of them have poor regulations to control it.  2. Despite the highest production of APIs and final Fentanyl in China, the consumption of the synthetic drug in China is abysmal.  The US-China Relations and Fentanyl The deadliest issue in the U.S.-China relationship right now isn’t the potential for military conflict over Taiwan, but the thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. each year from illicit Fentanyl made from Chinese raw materials. Synthetic opioids remain the source of the deadliest U.S. drug epidemic ever. Since 1999, drug overdoses have killed approximately 1 million Americans, an overdose lethality that has increased significantly since 2012 when synthetic opioids from China began supplying the U.S. demand for illicit opioids. In contrast, there are very few cases of Fentanyl addiction in China. Professor Hao Wei from the Institute of Mental Health of the Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University analyzed that this is because of the strict control of the Chinese government and the dual role of Chinese culture. He said, “The Opium War is an eternal pain for the Chinese people. Whether doctors, family members, or even patients themselves are vigilant about opioids, the amount of opioids in China is extremely limited.” It is a matter of public health crisis for the US. So much so that ex-US President Donald Trump called out China publicly on this matter. Even though China placed the entire class of Fentanyl-type drugs and…

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