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China Offers to Work with US on Opioid Drug Crisis

04 January, 2018

A Chinese official says the United States should not blame China for the widespread use of opioid drugs in America.

Yu Haibin of the China National Narcotics Control Commission spoke to reporters last week. He said there is little evidence that China provided much of the chemicals used to produce the powerful drug fentanyl.

FILE - A bag of 4-fluoro isobutyryl fentanyl which was seized in a drug raid is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Virginia, Aug. 9, 2016.
FILE - A bag of 4-fluoro isobutyryl fentanyl which was seized in a drug raid is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Virginia, Aug. 9, 2016.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to morphine that is prescribed by doctors to block pain. Fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

The U.S. and China have worked together to fight the worldwide flow of illegal man-made drugs. But some issues remain disputed.

In November, U.S. President Donald Trump voiced strong concerns about what he called a "flood of cheap and deadly" fentanyl that is made in China. He said the drug is part of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history.

Speaking of recent drug shipments, Yu said, "China doesn't deny that shipments to the U.S. happen, but there isn't the proof to show how much – whether it's 20 percent or 80 percent."

He said U.S. officials have sent him information about only six shipments from China in the past year.

In October, the Associated Press identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export the drug carfentanil around the world. AP says the cost was a few thousand dollars for one kilogram.

Carfentanil is said to be 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. It is used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals.

Yu urged the U.S. to share more information with Chinese officials. He said the over-use of pain medication and cultural attitudes about drugs have increased the demand for opioids in America.

"As many states decriminalize marijuana, the public's attitudes and trends of thinking toward drugs will also have a bad effect," Yu said.

Yu told reporters that China wants to work more closely with U.S. law enforcement and also with officials in Mexico. The drugs are believed to pass through Mexico on their way to the U.S.

Chinese officials announced that they raided a factory that makes fentanyl in November. Officials said they seized 4.7 kilograms of the drug. The U.S. immigration and customs agency provided information about an online seller named "Diana." It turns out that "Diana" was an illegal drug organization of 19 people.

China has supported a U.S. proposal this year to add substances used to make fentanyl to a United Nations list of controlled substances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most fentanyl overdoses come from illegally made versions of the drug.

The agency says more than 66,000 people in America died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in May of 2017. That is more than a 17 percent increase from the year before.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Mario Ritter adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

opioid –adj. describing a drug that chemically acts like opium based drugs that block pain

narcotic –adj. a powerful drug that affects the brain

synthetic –adj. not natural, made artificially

anesthetic –adj. a drug that causes sleep or uncosciousness

attitudes –n. the way people think about something, feelings that affect one's behavior

trends –n. the way an issue is changing or developing

regulate –v. to control with rules