This month, Chinese and American officials are talking about new, combined efforts at combatting opioid trafficking. One spokesperson from China’s foreign ministry was quoted saying that the country is-
“…ready to work with the US to enhance our cooperation in this field.”
Back in August of 2017, we wrote about how China has been singled out by many in America as the main source of synthetic drugs like fentanyl getting into the country. Drug dealers online have been able to order shipments through websites hosted in China, making everyday package carriers into unknowing drug smugglers across the US. According to reports from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seizures of fentanyl arriving by mail have increased drastically in the last few years:
- In 2011, 0.09 kilograms of fentanyl were seized by mail
- In 2016 is rose to 37 kilograms
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, had said he firmly believed that China would be teaming up with the United States in order to end the spread of fentanyl trafficking.
Now it seems those predictions are coming to fruition, as China has announced that it intends to work with the United States to fight illegal shipments of opioids. This comes following a congressional investigation that unearthed the secret to how opioid manufacturers have exploited inadequate safeguards in the U.S. Postal System.
So how will China and America team up?
Searching for Fentanyl Sales
One of the key elements of the issue is the way packages get into the United States. Recently, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs investigations subcommittee launched a probe that revealed a troubling reality. You can find information from the probe in a January 24, 2018 congressional report.
According to the report, an advanced electronic data system (AED) commonly used to identify suspicious packages only captured information on around a third of all international packages. So what does that add up to? Well, those numbers leave more than 318 million packages unscreened! That paves a very clear path for Chinese opioid manufacturers to ship lethal synthetic substances to individuals all across America.
The probe also provides details of just how easy acquiring fentanyl from Chinese manufacturers can actually be. Subcommittee staff told reporters that by simply conducting an internet search using the phrase “fentanyl for sale,” they found six “very responsive” sellers in China. Ultimately, investigators were able to identify:
- 500 online transactions involving fentanyl
- These transactions represent an estimated value of $776 million
- Can trace at least seven deaths from fentanyl in the United States to Chinese sales
To make matters worse, drug traffickers have been using each country’s own postal services against them. This major loop-hole in shipping has made a profound contribution to fentanyl trafficking.
Going Postal on Drug Traffickers
The investigation also reports that fentanyl distributors will push for investigators to pay for delivery through Express Mail Service (EMS). EMS is an international shipping method that utilizes each country’s own postal system to deliver packages. Part of the EMS network includes the U.S. Postal Service.
In an email to an investigator, one drug distributor wrote:
“Guaranteed delivery only via EMS, other shipping methods will not be guaranteed.”
Investigators claim that the EMS is the preferred method for shipping opioids into America. This is because the Postal Service failed to implement an AED system that would alert U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents about suspicious international packages. International fentanyl traffickers know how to manipulate and maneuver the postal systems. Those with the investigation also point out that surcharges are deterrents to send shipments through other delivery services such as:
This is due to the greater chance that packages will be detected. Sadly, the Senate report shows that it saw no significant improvement in collecting data on packages in 2017. However, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said that it has made the collection of this electronic data a priority.
China and America Teaming Up
In a statement to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said that in 2016 nearly 60% of all overdose deaths in Ohio were related to fentanyl. Portman emphasizes the need for more action to stop the flow of fentanyl by stating,
“The vast majority of illegal fentanyl is purchased online from labs in China and then shipped to the United States through the mail. The federal government can, and must, act to shore up our defenses against this deadly drug and save lives.”
A USPS spokesperson said that the agency is working “…aggressively with law enforcement and key trading partners to stem the flow of illegal drugs entering the United States,”
A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said it will “…continue to work with our government and private-sector partners to improve the efficiency of information sharing and operational coordination to address the challenges and threats…” of international narcotics smuggling.
We should note China still isn’t entirely sure that they are the major supplier of fentanyl to the US. In fact, Chinese officials have repeatedly pushed back against assessments like the one made by Senator Portman. In a press conference in December 2017, National Narcotics Control Commission official Yu Haibin said that there was-
“…little evidence showing China was the source of much of the chemicals used in the production of the powerful opioid fentanyl.”
However, it seems that China will be working toward a unified effort against fentanyl with America. Speaking on behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokesperson Hua Chunying said that,
“Anti-drug coordination is one of the highlights of China-US law enforcement cooperation,”
Chinese officials are already working to curb sales of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs in their country. At the moment there may still be some indiscretions about China’s willingness to accept responsibility for the majority of fentanyl trafficking into America. Still, the fact that both countries have politicians advocating for cooperation against the common enemy might be a good indication of a more hopeful future in overcoming fentanyl.
If we are going to overcome the opioid epidemic, we will have to work together to face the issue at every level; whether we are taking on trafficking, breaking the stigma, or developing better opportunities for addiction treatment and recovery resources. Palm Healthcare Company is proud to work with people from all over America to help them overcome their own substance use. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Back in August, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis began urging President Trump to declare a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis that has crippled countless communities around America. While the President did soon enough say that he believed the opioid epidemic was indeed a national emergency, the actual official process has yet to begin. However, just this week news broke that President Trump will soon formally declare the “national emergency” status of the opioid crisis.
Reports indicate President Trump plans to make the official declaration next week. It seems appropriate following the explosive exposé following the story on ’60 Minutes’ of former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi pointing a finger at Big Pharma companies, Congress, and lobbyists for fueling the opioid epidemic.
In fact, Republican Representative Tom Marino, who was the top pick for the Trump administrations Drug Czar, was name-dropped in a less than flattering light in the ’60 Minutes’ piece. Reports today now show Marino has withdrawn from consideration following the story.
So what does this newest revelation mean for combatting the opioid crisis?
One of the initial reasons for declaring a national emergency is pretty straight-forward; raising awareness. Not that we don’t see enough shocking news stories or warnings from local officials being issued in various states, but more attention on the issue will help channel more resources into actually helping address it.
As the commission states in their report:
“It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,”
“You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency, and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately.”
When the President of the United States says something is a priority, people take notice. Regardless of whether people always agree on politics, when we can all get behind a major issue and put effort into a more inclusive conversation, there is a better chance more can be done.
Overcoming Addiction Stigma
One of the most important aspects of fighting addiction is overcoming the addiction stigma itself. Many people who are suffering do not get the help they need because they are afraid of the stereotypes associated with drug abuse. A lot of people still doubt what the majority of the medical and scientific communities have adopted as fact; that addiction is a health issue, not a moral failing.
By declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, President Trump has an opportunity to promote education along with public awareness. The more we can help people to understand how addiction affects the mind and body, the better odds we have of supporting those struggling with compassionate and effective treatment options.
Funding for Fighting Opioids
Perhaps one of the biggest hopes for many addiction recovery advocates is that by President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency he will influence lawmakers to allocate more funding to resources combatting addiction.
A federal declaration would also allow the government to pull funding from other areas as well, such as funding used for the Public Health Emergency Fund, or even the federal Disaster Relief Fund. So while America has been struck pretty hard by hurricanes and natural disasters, some of this same funding may end up going toward creating addiction resources.
One thing many are hoping is that these new funds will also go to promoting more addiction treatment options across the country. Some states may pursue incentives for performance-based enhanced care management (ECM) program, like one recently implemented in New Jersey. Others may put those resources into prevention and education initiatives.
One thing should seem pretty clear; treatment options should be a priority. We already know we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. The War on Drugs did not work, and many do not expect it will now either. With President Trump declaring the national emergency, hopefully, the new effort will go into protecting mental health and substance abuse parity with healthcare and insurance providers. If we have more ways to help those already desperately in need, we could see a better chance for a way out.
With the CDC stating an estimated 91 Americans dying every single day from opioid-related death, which many experts believe is grossly underreported, helping more people fighting opioid addiction find a way out is crucial. However, we should not wait on politicians, health officials or anyone else to fix it. Recovery takes action. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Drug overdoses killed 64,000 Americans last year. That is an increase of more than 20% than the overdose deaths in 2015. Those numbers have nearly quadrupled since 2000. Now nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths are from by opioids. Some are from prescription opioids; others are from illicit heroin or synthetics like fentanyl.
However, some are concerned that the action we have seen thus far is too little too late. The president’s 2018 budget only increases addiction treatment funding by less than 2%. That already includes the $500 million appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act. So needless to say, many recovery advocates worry that the resources are just not going to be enough.
If we look at the recommendations of the president’s opioid commission, and at other initiatives that have started to gain some traction across the country, we can find patterns. There are some concepts that consistently show up, and perhaps if we focus on these similarities, we can see why so many minds are thinking alike.
So here are 5 big ways America can overcome the opioid epidemic.
Break the Stigma
In order to accomplish most of the things on this list, America first has to consistently fight to break the stigma of drug use and addiction. Misunderstanding what addiction is and how it happens only undermines progress to addressing it. If America hopes to overcome the opioid crisis, we have to be more willing to see it for what it is.
Right now the issue of addiction stigma is still a big deal. While we may have come a long way from how it was decades ago, there are still a lot of people who refuse to consider addiction as an illness. A lot of people still refuse to acknowledge the various factors that contribute to addiction, such as genetic predisposition and instead insist addiction is purely by choice.
If we can see how drug use affects people from all different walks of life, and for countless different reasons, we can then treat those suffering from more compassion. Finding more effective methods of treatment means having a better idea of what really causes addiction, and what feeds it.
Support PAARI, NOT Punishment
Speaking of compassion, supporting PAARI and not punishment is a perfect example of letting go of stigma to work toward saving lives.
It is about time that all of America realizes that the old ways of the failed War on Drugs do not work. Thankfully, it seems a lot more people across the country now understand that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Harsher punishments and severe sentences have not deterred addiction, they only support stigma.
Now in America, there are nearly 300 law enforcement agencies across 31 states that have Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative programs (PAARI). These PAARI programs offer treatment for drug users who come to authorities looking for a way out. Instead of fearing the threat of arrest, people struggling with substances are encouraged to reach out to law enforcement in order to be put in contact with treatment options or recovery networks.
This revolutionary new mindset was inspired by a department in Gloucester, Massachusetts not too long ago. So far these efforts appear to cost much less and with better results than efforts focused on punishing addicts.
Create Resources for Treatment
Today addiction medicine is an urgently needed specialty, but there is not much glory in it compared to other areas of medical work. One way the federal government could help create more resources for treatment is to provide tuition incentives for medical students to enter addiction-related specialties and work in underserved communities. By encouraging this kind of work, we further shed the stigma of addiction and shift the perspective to helping care for a vulnerable community.
But don’t just end with specialists.
By supporting things like Medicaid expansion, addiction and mental health treatment can be made available to more people who may not have access to healthcare under limited coverage. More state and federal funding can also be allocated by officials to help build or strengthen addiction treatment programs provided by the state.
Enforce Mental Health Parity
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 actually requires insurers provide equal benefits for mental health and addiction treatment that they do with other medical therapies or surgery. Thus, the law means to make discrimination against addicts by insurers illegal.
However, some insurers defy this law by imposing illogical treatment limits or tedious authorization requirements. In other words, insurance companies are finding ways to cheat the system in order to avoid paying for addiction and mental health treatment.
America and our government must to better to enforce mental health parity. If we want people to get the treatment they need, we have to protect their right to treatment and assure that insurance providers won’t be able to skip out on the bill.
According to John Renner, president of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, between 50%- 70% of people with substance abuse problems also suffer from a mental health disorder such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
With mental health and addiction so closely related, making sure those struggling with opioids and other substances receive care for mental health disorders or other co-occurring conditions it vital to lasting recovery.
First and foremost; preserve life! This should always be a priority when facing any kind of epidemic. Regardless of the circumstances, the preservation of life should always be paramount. This is a discussion that has become crucial in the fight against opioids considering the need for life-saving medications and harm reduction tactics.
At the moment, first responders and emergency rooms do not have adequate access to Naloxone or Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, to save lives. Both federal and state health agencies can negotiate pricing for naloxone and expand access. They can also encourage pharmacies that offer prescription-free access in some areas.
Another aspect of saving lives involves harm reduction strategies, which tend to be a little more controversial. Not everyone likes to support programs like safe injection sites or needle exchange programs. However, whether you think these programs enable addiction or not, these programs are proven to help preserve life. Between preventing the spread of infectious disease and providing a supported environment in case of overdose, these harm reduction models can prevent a lot of needless loss of life.
One indisputable precedence in the effort to overcome opioids is keeping people suffering alive long enough to get them treatment. The more people we can help survive opioid addiction, the more people have a chance of recovering.
Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and providing effective and compassionate treatment makes a lifelong difference. Part of solving the problem is changing the way we look at it and changing how we treat each other. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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Every day the opioid epidemic continues to create more suffering and struggle across the country. In every state there are people scrambling for a way out, with politicians and citizens staggering to keep up with growing death rates and the damage to their communities. With America fighting desperately to get ahead of the outbreak officials are looking to China, where most of the illicit synthetic opioids are coming from, for some help putting an end to the flow of the fentanyl outbreak.
The American Fentanyl Outbreak
Subsequently, the continual rise of illicit and lethal fentanyl being blended into the underground market of opioids has instigated higher than ever death tolls. Government officials found themselves in increasingly desperate times last summer when the DEA warned the public that counterfeit pill pressers were distributing the potent fentanyl drug disguised as prescription painkillers. This cost countless users unaware of the drugs presence or its danger their lives, and continues to do so today.
At the time, the agency said that fentanyl disguised as prescription pills has become a consistent trend, not a series of isolated incidents or freak accidents.
Drug dealers could reportedly make millions from selling pills. But many decided they could easily boost their profits by making pills at home. All they would need were:
- Pill press
- Binding agents
With enterprising ingenuity drug dealers could easily make fentanyl resemble other less potent and more popular drugs of abuse, such as the prescription opioid oxycodone or even anti-anxiety pills.
Once this drug became a go-to ingredient for dealers to cut their product, be it heroin or prescription pills, the fentanyl outbreak spread like wildfire. There is no telling as of now how many overdoses alone have been caused by fentanyl, not to mention how many deaths.
China Market for Synthetic Opioids
China has been singled out as the main source of synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Through the internet drug dealers can purchase fentanyl from websites hosted in China and have shipments sent to the United States, making the same package handlers that deliver your mail in the morning secret drug traffickers.
According to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seizures of fentanyl arriving by mail have increased drastically:
- In 2011, 0.09 kilograms of fentanyl were seized by mail
- In 2016 is rose to 37 kilograms
America definitely knows what kind of damage the dark web drug trade can do. We have seen it right here with Dread Pirate Robets and the Silk Road story. Having to try and disrupt the flow of drugs coming from another country puts officials in a tough spot.
China and U.S. Team Up
Officials in the US are bracing for the threat of what they call the “next wave” of the opioid crisis. Experts looking at the current trend believe with conviction that things will inevitably get worse before they get better. However, not everyone is as concerned about the future of the fentanyl outbreak.
Enter Tom Price, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who insists he is optimistic about the China’s efforts to team up with the United States in the fight against the fentanyl outbreak.
Price knows that both the U.S. and China are struggling to keep up with what he calls the-
“- rapidly changing ability of individuals to formulate new chemical makeups that are a different drug and that aren’t in the controlled arena.”
Regarding synthetic drugs this is the same hurdle law enforcement and government officials have come up against for years. Manufacturers continually rename products and slightly alter the chemical make-up in order to slip through loop-holes of legality.
For example, the drug U-47700 (also known as “Pink”) is designed to mimic the effects of controlled substances. However, these counterfeit chemists twist the chemical structure of the compound. This makes it more possible for illegal drug makers to skirt drug laws and drug tests.
The same thing has happened over and over with synthetic marijuana products in America, like K2 and Spice.
Fentanyl has become more relevant than ever.
- In June the DEA reported a seizure of 44.14 kilograms (which comes out to 14 million doses) of fentanyl in San Diego County, California
- Weeks ago Arizona law enforcement seized 30,000 fentanyl pills that were made to look like oxycodone
Chinese officials have also stated that facing the fentanyl outbreak they have dealt with many difficulties. This past June, Yu Haibin of China’s narcotics control agency stated:
“My feeling is that it’s just like a race and I will never catch up with the criminals,”
Shortly afterwards on the 1st of July, China implemented a ban on four synthetic opioids, including:
The head of the US Department of Health and Human Services stated,
“When a particular drug is identified as being a problem, China has been an incredible partner in helping to stop the production of drugs like fentanyl in China,”
Price says he is also confident that China will play an important part in fighting the rise of carfentanil, a drug so potent it is used as an elephant tranquilizer.
Both nations have found it hard to keep up with everything the illicit drug makers are up to. If anything they can agree it is a very real problem and it must be taken seriously. While the opioid epidemic in America has yet to show any sign of slowing down, some officials are optimistic that at the very least we may soon see some decline in the more deadly elements that have been slipped into the market.
The bad batches drug users run the risk of getting has increased exponentially over time. Plenty have already died as a result. Thankfully, the crisis has brought together communities, political rivals and even foreign countries to fight the spreading threat together. Beyond prevention, a vital part of fighting this fight is effective and long lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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