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.

Need help for fentanyl addiction? Unsure of whether you face fentanyl addiction? Waiting to get treatment could prove to be life-threatening. The Recovery Village offers personalized programming for opioid addiction and can help you or a loved one begin recovery from fentanyl addiction. Calling The Recovery Village is free and confidential, and you don’t have to commit to a program to learn more about rehab.

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By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more

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Myers, Steven Lee & Goodnough, Abby. “China Bans All Types of Fentanyl, Cutting Supply of Deadly Drug to U.S. and Fulfilling Pledge to Trump“>China Ba[…]edge to Trump.” The New York Times, April 1, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.