Mexico has replaced China as the “dominant source” of fentanyl and synthetic opioids entering the United States, a new government report says.
From 2014 until 2019, most pure fentanyl that U.S. authorities seized came from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), said the report from the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking.
“Since then, the dominant source of illegally sourced fentanyl has been Mexico,” the report says. “The drug is manufactured in illegal laboratories there using precursors from Asia — mainly the PRC — and is trafficked principally by land into the United States.”
Fentanyl is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in packages, vehicles, and on persons, the report says. Because the drug is so powerful, “It is difficult to interdict given that just a small physical amount of this potent drug is enough to satisfy U.S. demand, making it highly profitable for traffickers and dealers,” the report says.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is prescribed to treat severe pain. However, people misuse it because of its ability to produce a potent high and feelings of euphoria.
The commission is a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, experts and officials from federal departments and agencies.
In a troubling note, the report said Mexican drug cartels sometimes manufacture the drug in counterfeit tablets with brand names such as Adderall and Xanax, meaning some people who consume fentanyl are not initially seeking it.
About 100,000 Americans overdosed and died during a recent 12-month period, mostly because of fentanyl and similar synthetic drugs, says a letter included with the report from U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and U.S. Rep. David Trone of Maryland.
“The overdose crisis in the United States claims more lives each year than firearms, suicide, homicide, or motor vehicle crashes. This is one of our most-pressing national security, law enforcement, and public health challenges, and we must do more as a nation and a government to protect our most precious resource ― American lives,” the letter says.
The report makes recommendations for the U.S. to reduce the flow of fentanyl.
- Elevate the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office to a cabinet-level position.
- Disrupt drug supply through targeted oversight and enforcement, such as offering federal grants to law enforcement agencies to swiftly investigate drug overdoses.
- Use public health agencies to educate the public and reduce demand.
- Collaborate with countries involved in the production and distribution of synthetic opioids.
- Improve surveillance and data analysis to allow for more-timely and interventions.
The Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking is a bipartisan group of lawmakers and officials from federal departments and agencies.
In 2017, then-President Trump declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.