Drop-Dead Drugs

The days of streetlight curfews are no more for this age of millennials. The pace of adolescence has picked up and become far more technologically based and cutting edge. State-of-the-art software, updates, phones, service speed, cars, defense systems and oh yes: drugs, specifically a dangerous new drug called fentanyl. Incredibly lethal and 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl was outlawed in 2016 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.


Drugs have become stronger and deadlier over time. Many misjudge their high and overlook the strength of the drug. The results are catastrophic. The most recent highlight in the world of drugs are opioid based narcotics. These generally include prescription painkillers such as morphine, dilaudid, oxycontin, percocet, heroin and now… enter Fentanyl, growing in popularity, availability, and directly increasing overdose death tolls.


Today we are living in a world full of these prescription drugs. Festivals, raves and massive events are what run the upcoming agendas for many looking to “party.” With songs focused around the allure of cough syrup, codeine highs, molly and percocet, it’s easy to see why a prescription drugs like fentanyl are gaining this popularity with kids today.


The streets will always be a contributing factor for drug abuse, but in the complexity of a pharmaceutical drug designed for pain control, becoming abused by the public so rapidly present an idea that there are other factor at play. Understanding we have a severe problem on our hands is the easy part of drug war. The increasingly more difficult portion is figuring out how to attack the problem. For the United States, the big issue seems to be that international productions are haphazardly manufactured and then smuggled out of pharmacies and into the streets. A lack of control in this matter for China is proving to be a major cause for this epidemic.


Fentanyl is currently manufactured in China as a drug ready for sale and shipped (illegally) into the United States. In some cases, it is shipped to Mexico as raw materials to be manufactured and then brought across the border. Daniel Ciccarone, an editor for the Journal of Drug Policy, recently focused on this epidemic saying, “[Fentanyl] has had more deaths than the Vietnam War, [continuing on to say] this [drug] has caused more deaths in a given year than HIV-AIDS.” According to the New York Times, Overdose in 2016 accounted for a total of 64,000 lives lost, and a staggering 20,400 of that figure all from fentanyl and fentanyl related overdoses.


Why is a drug that is so lethal — even in microscopic amounts — fails to have ample regulation or overwatch?


In the United States, governmental organizations such as the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulates and enforces potentially dangerous prescription drugs and laboratory produced, high potency narcotics. They help prevent some of the more deadly medications from becoming easily received on the streets. Many other countries that narcotics such as these are manufactured in, conversely, are far from regulated or even looked at. For this current standing issue of fentanyl, the lack of global regulation may be having a stronger influence on the ease of finding the deadly narcotic then the streets themselves.

Drug mules, those that are tasked with transporting products into the states have always been “creative” in their ways of infiltration. However, regulation outside of the FDA or lack thereof may be the bigger problem. According to CNN, the FDA has been negotiating with Chinese officials regarding this matter since about February of this year.


When put in perspective, we see that this is a large problem capable of becoming a global nightmare. However, the challenge with addressing the rise in opioid use is that much of the conundrum lies overseas. China being where the majority of the drug is manufactured, should look for implementing preventative measures in the production facilities. From substandard regulations to subpar security, the narcotic goes from raw material manufacturing to packaging to the hands of the mules and then the streets in just a few easy steps.


Adding to the challenge, China is a non-extradition country for the US. Without such a treaty, legal cooperation between the two states is extremely difficult. Hopes are high that we may see China step up to the plate and take action against this horribly destructive drug.


Currently, the US has taken siege of two main culprits in the illegal drugs trade and removed a slough of Fentanyl from the market. Negotiations with China over the two Chinese drug mules are awaiting a trial here in the states. The US has handed over evidence to Chinese officials and is currently being investigated. If China accepts, as they should, this may be a precedent in setting a global trend to fight these potent and popular prescription drugs. One down, a million more to go, but it’s a start.


Christopher Penn is a junior business administration and hospitality management major.


Featured Photo: Flickr/ Eric Norris


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