America’s global fentanyl struggle continues

The US Treasury just issued sanctions on 28 people and companies in China for alleged involvement in opioid manufacturing and trade.

Synthetic opioids like fentanyl accounted for two thirds of the 110,000 people who died of overdoses last year, up from less than 1% in 2010.

Its extreme potency means the entire annual US supply could reportedly fit in the beds of a couple of pickup trucks. Most US fentanyl is ultimately processed and smuggled into the US via Mexico and Canada.

But the production process, according to the US Attorney General“often starts with chemical companies in China.”

Intrigue’s take: The drug trade is the ultimate game of cat and mouse. Suppliers constantly adapt their products and business models, often faster than the authorities can keep up.

One thing that helps? Cooperation between governments. And given the state of US-China ties, cooperation (unlike fentanyl) is now in short supply.

Also worth noting:

  • China has described the sanctions as a “severe infringement”, which “cannot solve the United States’ own problems.
  • China’s foreign ministry previously said China was the first country in the world to prohibit fentanyl-related substances as a class.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland will meet with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City today (Thursday) to discuss issues including drug trafficking.
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