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Fentanyl Continues Deadly Flow Into US Through Mail ‘Straight From China’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A Republican senator is calling for more action from his colleagues to stop the deadly flow of fentanyl, which continues to pour in through U.S. mail services from China.

A bipartisan report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee released Wednesday shows that massive amounts of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, are infiltrating the country through the U.S. Postal Service, largely purchased online from illicit manufacturing operations in China, reports CBS News.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said the alarming report shows just how easy it is to obtain fentanyl from China, and said lawmakers are not doing enough to prevent trafficking. He said the, “federal government can, and must, act to shore up our defenses.”

“The problem is the P.O. Box in America that gets the shipment, through our Postal Service, straight from China,” Portman said in a statement. “When that 49-year-old man outside of Cleveland, Ohio dies of an overdose of fentanyl within a couple of weeks of getting his delivery, you realize we’re not doing our job.”

Investigators on the subcommittee followed up with six online retailers of fentanyl based in China after googling “fentanyl for sale.” Further investigation uncovered 500 financial documents tied to roughly $766 million of fentanyl that has entered the country. They were able to tie the six retailers to at least seven overdose deaths.

Portman says all foreign packages should include electronic data giving the name and address of the sender. He also supports more funding to equip agents with advanced technology for mail screenings.

Opioids are killing a record number of people in Ohio, which now has the second highest death rate from drug overdoses in the U.S., behind only West Virginia.

The state lost 4,329 residents to drug overdoses in 2016, a 24 percent increase over the previous year, fueled by the worsening opioid epidemic that is spreading death throughout the country. Nearly 40 per 100,000 people in the state now die from a drug-related overdoses in Ohio, due to the influx of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs.

Officials say without the presence of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, commonly called Narcan, the number of opioid deaths would be much higher. First responders in Ohio administered roughly 43,000 doses of naloxone in 2016.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the opioid epidemic will continue to deteriorate, predicting drug deaths will exceed 71,000 in 2017.

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