China is banning another batch of synthetic opioids linked to dozens of U.S. drug deaths.
China’s National Narcotics Control Commission announced Monday that U-47700, which was a legal alternative to fentanyl and derivatives like carfentanil, is now banned, along with other synthetic drugs, according to the Associated Press Monday.
The commission added carfentanil and three other less potent synthetic opioids to the list of controlled substances in February. Carfentanil is a synthetic opiate that has been the subject of chemical weapons research and is used to tranquilize large animals. The substance is reportedly 5,000 times more powerful than heroin and 10,000 times stronger than morphine, making it one of the most potent drugs on the market.
China has restricted 138 synthetic drugs in recent years.
“I can tell you that when China controls a substance, (new psychoactive substances) or fentanyl-classed substance, it has a huge impact on seizures and availability in the U.S.,” Justin Schoeman, Beijing-based country attache for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said at a news conference, according to the AP. “The controlling of substances in China certainly saves lives in the U.S.”
China has long been a top source for designer drugs, but the country has been cooperating with the U.S. to restrict the flow of narcotics. Synthetic opioids are spreading across the U.S. at a rapid rate, and around 10,000 drug deaths, roughly one-fifth of the total, were linked to synthetic opioids in 2015.
Prince is believed to have overdosed on a cocktail of fentanyl and U-47700.
China has been making “big efforts” to control the distribution of psychoactive substances. The problem is that when one substance is banned, drug developers modify the chemical structures of controlled substances to skirt the law.
“My feeling is that it’s just like a race and I will never catch up with the criminals,” Yu Haibin, a division director at the Ministry of Public Security’s Narcotics Control Bureau, said. “We just want to make a breakthrough in dealing with this.” Synthetic opioids have been purchased online and shipped to the U.S. The U.S. and China are conducting joint investigations into entities involved in the trade of the substances behind numerous U.S. drug deaths.
“Our agents work hand in hand with the Chinese,” DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in November, “They have given our agents a heads up on some of the companies distributing carfentanil, as well as incoming shipments.”
China, in cooperation with American agents, is taking steps to cut off the flow of deadly narcotics into the U.S., but it is a challenge given the rapid rate of development for designer drugs.
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