Tightened Control Over Fentanyl
Abuse of fentanyl-related substances is a global problem and can't be solved by a single country
By Lan Xinzhen  ·  2019-04-24  ·   Source: NO.17 APRIL 25, 2019

China will add fentanyl-related substances to a supplementary list of controlled narcotics and psychotropic substances used for nonmedical purposes starting on May 1.

The decision was announced in a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Public Security, the National Health Commission and the National Medical Products Administration at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office in early April.

Historically, China was a victim of drugs including opium, thus the Chinese Government takes a tough stance on drug crimes. China's tightened control on fentanyl-related substances could help the U.S. control and crack down on fentanyl-related drugs; there is a lot of room for the Chinese and U.S. governments to cooperate in cracking down on drug crimes.

Fentanyl is legally prescribed to treat patients with chronic pain or used during or after surgeries. However, in recent years, the substance has been used to make new synthetic drugs in countries like the U.S. and Canada. Listing fentanyl-related drugs as a controlled class of substances reflects the Chinese Government's sense of responsibility in solving global drug problems.

The United States accuses China of being the main source of its fentanyl-related substances. A report released in November 2018 by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a U.S. congressional commission, alleges that China is the biggest source of illicit fentanyl-like substances in the U.S., with flows through "China's vast, but poorly monitored and weakly regulated" chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The accusation is both unobjective and unfair. Several years ago, China listed 25 categories of fentanyl-related substances as controlled, more than the 21 required by the United Nations, even though it didn't find abuse of the drug in the country. At a China-U.S. anti-drug intelligence exchange meeting in October 2017, China gave 400 items of information to the U.S. concerning people from the U.S. trying to buy fentanyl in China. China's law enforcement authorities have carried out investigations of fentanyl sales following tip-offs provided by the U.S. and reported the findings to the U.S. in a timely manner.

In previous cases solved by China's law enforcement departments involving illegal procession and sale of fentanyl-related substances to the U.S., Chinese and U.S. criminals colluded to stealthily smuggle the drug to the U.S. However, the amount involved was meager; therefore China can't possibly be the primary source of fentanyl to the U.S.

According to Liu Yuejin, Deputy Director of the National Narcotics Control Commission, the reasons for the abuse of fentanyl-related substances in the U.S. come from within the country. The U.S. has a long history of prescribed painkiller abuse. People in the U.S., who account for 5 percent of the world's population, consume 80 percent of the world's opioids. Some large pharmaceutical companies bribe experts to testify that opioids are harmless in order to reap more financial benefits. Lack of supervision has added to the problem; people are able to get repeat prescriptions for opioids in different states.

As a matter of fact, it is the abuse of fentanyl in the U.S. that caught the Chinese Government's attention and led to its listing related substances as controlled. The practice will close the loopholes through which transgressors evade punishment by developing new variables and provide a legal basis for law enforcement authorities to crack down on fentanyl-related crimes.

To prevent smuggling of fentanyl-related substances, China has ordered its customs and post offices to strengthen inspection of suspicious packages. The Chinese Government has carried out its international anti-drug obligations and participated in solving global drug problems in the manner of a responsible country.

However, abuse of fentanyl-related substances is a global problem and can't be solved by a single country. It requires concerted efforts of all countries. If the U.S. really wants to solve its fentanyl problem, it must find the root of the massive abuse, the source of the drug and its smuggling channels. It also needs to strengthen anti-drug education and implement international cooperation in intelligence exchange, information sharing and joint investigation rather than point fingers at other countries.

China is willing to work with the international community, including the U.S., to find a solution to fentanyl-related substance abuse. The Chinese Government is always willing to share its experiences in drug control with other countries and contribute China's solution to the global anti-drug cause.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com


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