A potent and dangerous opioid, fentanyl, is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in deaths over the last couple of years. The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis. In response, medical professionals severely limit the amounts of narcotics they prescribe. But fentanyl is not a first-line pain reliever. Instead, doctors reserve fentanyl in the form of a transdermal patch for people with cancer pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments. So where is all the fentanyl coming from to fuel the opioid epidemic?
Fentanyl from China Travels Through the Mail:
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs investigations subcommittee reports that Chinese chemical labs are selling fentanyl online. Buyers then receive the product in the mail. Because the drug is so potent, small quantities are diluted and sold on the street for huge profits.
It seems that these unscrupulous operators on both sides of the border are taking advantage of a weakness in the US Postal Service. The USPS has not completely implemented a system that would use advanced electronic data to identify suspicious packages and alert US Customs and Border Protection about them.
A Few Providers Made a Lot of Money:
The Senate committee said they have identified 500 online fentanyl transactions worth nearly $800 million. Many were shipped by Express Mail, an international delivery service that utilizes the USPS facilities in the US. Most of these deals could be tracked to six extremely active providers, most of them in China. The investigators linked these particular transactions to seven deaths.
Will the USPS Step Up to the Challenge?
The Senators are calling for the Postal Service and the US Customs and Border Protection Agency to improve its technology to protect against this deadly drug. Other international shippers such as FedEx and DHL are already using technology to detect and reject suspicious packages. As a result, the online sellers charge extra if the buyer wants to use one of these rather than the USPS. That’s because they recognize a greater probability that the purchase would need to be shipped again.