by Justin Mckibben | Jul 9, 2018 | Addiction, Drug Trafficking, Internet, News, Pain Management, Prescription Drugs, Social Media
On the 27th of June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted an Online Opioid Summit to discuss the impact of the digital marketplace on the real-world issue of drug abuse in America. According to earlier reports, the summit was meant to encourage tech officials to collaborate on new initiatives that would take stronger action when it comes to illegal opioids being marketed online. With opioid addiction being such a huge issue today, more effort is being put into stopping the spread of prescription drugs.
However, the summit eventually stirred up a bit on controversy. On one side, the tech companies believe the pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies pointed to the tech industry as being more responsible.
So while the hope was to use this summit as an opportunity to bring people together, it still created a new version of the opioid blame game. Should the tech industry really be taking more of the blame?
Tech Leaders in Washington
The summit was organized to bring together leaders in the tech industry, along with academic researchers and advocacy groups. Part of the big draw included representatives from Silicon Valley and social media empires, such as:
The Online Opioid Summit also welcomed lobbyists and government officials to participate in the discussion. The involvement of the tech industry in the opioid crisis has been brought up a lot these past few months in Washington, D.C., including:
- The testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Congress months ago
- At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the tech industry had not done enough when it came to getting rid of illegal drug sales and marketing online.
- When the FDA sent letters to nine companies, which are responsible for operating 53 online pharmacies, and instructed them to cease the marketing of opioids.
Initially, the FDA’s invitation for the summit suggested the FDA planned to ask tech companies, such as Google and other social media giants, to sign what it called a “Pledge to Reduce the Availability of Illicit Opioids Online.” Had this plan gone through, the pledge would have been published 30 days after the summit.
Tech Industry Pushing Back
However, the FDA decided not to follow through with the plan after speaking at length with tech industry leaders. This may be because the tech companies are pushing back against the claims that they should be held more accountable to the illicit sale of opioids online.
One day before the summit the Internet Association held a call with reporters prior to the summit. For those who aren’t aware, the Internet Association represents various tech industry interests, such as:
A representative from the Internet Association reportedly cited research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The studies they point out state that most people misusing opioids get them from non-online sources.
And even when you do consider the online sale of opioids, reports indicate that either:
- Most illegal online opioid sales are happening on the dark web.
- Some “open” websites claim to sell opioids but actually do not. They actually steal people’s information.
Needless to say, the tech industry is not willing to let the burden on blame rest on their shoulders. However, some still say that does not mean they are unwilling to take steps.
Tech Taking Small Steps on Opioids
In order to eliminate opioid sales online, some of the biggest names in the tech industry are taking steps, even small ones. For example:
Google implemented a special tool on its homepage back in April to help promote the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day.
This social media cornerstone is redirecting users who are trying to buy opioids on the platform to a help hotline.
As a part of the bigger Facebook family, the photo-sharing app Instagram now monitors hashtags that relate to opioids.
An official from the Internet Association states that many of the trade group’s members:
“-have partnered with nonprofits, health groups and the federal government to educate people about the epidemic and prevent it from spreading.”
While it is a start, some are still asking more of the tech industry. Libby Baney, an advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, tells Wired that beyond the small changes being made, these companies also need to acknowledge the role they have played. Baney states:
“This is a historic opportunity to do more with what we already know is true.”
“If it ends up being us versus them and there’s pointing fingers and a lot of ‘We’re already doing this or that,’ that’s an old-school way of thinking that isn’t responsive to the public health need.”
According to Wired, one FDA spokesperson made statements suggesting that this shouldn’t be labeled a loss,
“We will consolidate the feedback and ideas discussed at the summit and turn it into an actionable plan—not just for those in the room but for all internet stakeholders to join.”
For now, the FDA worries that as other means of obtaining opioids are restricted, the online marketplace will keep growing. Hopefully, the tech industry will continue to work with the FDA and other government agencies to find the most efficient and proactive methods for keeping illegal online pharmacies from exploiting their platforms to distribute dangerous drugs.
Should we hold the tech industry responsible for some of the issues with illegal opioid sales? Should they be doing more to help curb the illegal opioid market? Surely, we cannot blame Facebook or Google for the opioid crisis. But what role can they play in helping slow the spread of drugs?
Furthermore, thing we can do to fight addiction together is to make as many resources for effective addiction treatment more available. Part of overcoming the opioid crisis is getting people who are struggling the help that they need. This means offering medical detox options and holistic treatment programs. The easier for people to find reliable treatment resources, the better chance we all have of making our country safer.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in supporting innovation and offering a personalized path for each individual trying to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. We do our best to connect with those who need us most and help them better understand the opportunities available to them. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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by Justin Mckibben | Aug 25, 2017 | Carfentanil, Drug Policy, Fentanyl, Opioids, Prescription Drugs, Synthetic Drugs
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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