Drug labs manufacturing the deadly synthetic opioid driving the national overdose epidemic are starting to crop up across the border in Mexico.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned Thursday that Mexican cartels are beginning to produce their own fentanyl instead of relying on shipments from overseas. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, has been predominately manufactured in China and shipped to cartels and dealers through the mail for subsequent entry into the U.S., reports AFP.
Cartels are now ordering the chemicals necessary to make the substance themselves in laboratories, that Sessions worries could exacerbate the opioid epidemic.
“Fentanyl originally started mostly from China,” Sessions said Thursday, according to AFP. “A considerable amount has been shipped to Mexico and then enters across the border in some fashion from Mexico. We are also seeing precursor chemicals in Mexico and manufacturing labs begin to develop in Mexico. So one of the priorities I would like to see us do is to nip that in the bud, stay very intensely focused on those laboratories, and make sure that it does not become a big problem in the future.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016 and is blamed as the primary driver of the current opioid epidemic. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its analogs, claimed roughly 20,100 lives in 2016, up from 9,945 in the previous year.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued new guidance to police departments across the country in June on how to handle heroin and other narcotics due to the increasing prevalence of fentanyl. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl, “the equivalent of a few grains of table salt,” to cause a fatal overdose.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
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