Will a new ban on Chinese fentanyl help curb the opioid epidemic in the United States?
In good news for the United States, China has recently designated the opioid drug fentanyl and all fentanyl variants as controlled substances, effectively banning them from being made and shipped to America. While specific types of fentanyl are already controlled substances in China, several varieties of fentanyl-like drugs remained legal.
The Influx of Chinese Fentanyl in America
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid drug that is highly addictive and can be deadly, even in small amounts. According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China is the primary source of illicit fentanyl that exists in the United States.
Some Chinese drug manufacturers found loopholes by making small, molecular-level variations to fentanyl, making it technically legal to make and sell. These fentanyl variants were then sold online and shipped to the United States, fueling the opioid crisis currently gripping the country. In 2017, fentanyl was estimated to cause more than 28,000 overdose deaths in America.
On April 1, China announced that, per the United States’ request, it would designate fentanyl and all its related varieties as controlled substances, leading to a ban on its exportation from China. This ban is expected to significantly decrease the amount of fentanyl that is shipped into the United States and is anticipated to lead to a reduction in the availability of this dangerous drug.
Will the Ban Stop the Flow of Fentanyl Entirely?
Even with the new fentanyl ban, government leaders, reporters and citizens are still concerned that this action is not sufficient to limit the influx and abuse of fentanyl in America.
Exporting Fentanyl Ingredients Is Legal
While the amount of fentanyl entering the United States from China will be reduced through this ban, it is still legal in China to ship several of the ingredients needed to make fentanyl to other countries. Some people fear that this fact will lead to fentanyl being made in other countries much closer to the United States — like Mexico — and then smuggled into America.
Other Countries Without Bans Could Target America
It is also possible that other countries without similar bans may try to fill the increased demand for fentanyl. While these are legitimate concerns, it is still likely that the amount of fentanyl entering the United States will decrease as a result of this ban.
Chinese Officials May Struggle to Enforce the Ban
Many people have also pointed out that China may have problems enforcing this law, as there are already some similar laws in China that are poorly enforced. The United States controls fentanyl that is made or sold within the country, but will be mostly dependant on China’s enforcement of their laws to reduce the amount of fentanyl that is shipped into the United States.
The short- and long-term outcomes of this fentanyl ban remain to be seen. While this new ban is not the end-all solution, most people agree that it is a step in the right direction and can only help in turning the tide of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.
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Martina, Michael. “U.S. Welcomes China’s Expanded Clampdown on Fentanyl.” Reuters, March 13, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
BBC News. “China to Curb all Types of Fentanyl, Following US Demands.” April 1, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
Ingber, Sasha. “China To Close Loophole On Fentanyl After U.S. Calls For Opioid Action.” National Public Radio, April 1, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
Myers, Steven Lee & Goodnough, Abby. “China Bans All Types of Fentanyl, Cutting Supply of Deadly Drug to U.S. and Fulfilling Pledge to Trump.” The New York Times, April 1, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
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