Washington – Beijing must “do more” to stop the export of chemicals to make fentanyl, the United States drug law enforcement agency has said.
The plea from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) comes as US deaths from drug overdoses exceeded 100 000 for the first time in a single calendar year.
Two-thirds were linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid some 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Officials say most US fentanyl is made in Mexico from Chinese-made chemicals.
Chemicals that are precursors to synthesising the opioid are being openly sold to Mexican cartels that manufacture the drug smuggling it into the US, according to DEA chief Anne Milgram.
“We need to be able to track every shipment of chemicals that’s coming out of those Chinese chemical companies and coming to Mexico,” she told CBS news. “Right now, we can’t do that.”
“If we can go as far upstream as possible to China, we have a much better chance of stopping it ever being made in Mexico,” she said.
More than one million Americans have died from drug overdoses since 2001. The numbers have risen amid a crisis of opioid addiction, and increasingly, Americans have turned to synthetic opioids.
They are also easier for cartels to produce because they rely on chemicals rather than natural crops like poppy for heroin or coca for cocaine.
Between January 2021 and March 2022, the DEA seized around 2,100lbs (950kg) of precursor chemicals, Ms Milgram said, adding that it was enough to produce around one billion lethal doses of fentanyl.
In 2019, China cracked down on the shipment of finished fentanyl, leading cartels to begin importing the precursor chemicals instead. China has previously rejected blame for the rise in US drug deaths from fentanyl as “irresponsible and utterly false” – instead attributed it to America’s history of prescription medicine abuse. (BBC)