Friday, January 6, 2017

DEA Chief to Visit China as US Pushes to Halt Opioid Supply

The top U.S. drug enforcement official plans to visit China next week, a sign of intensifying efforts to stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs from China to the United States.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed Friday that acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg will visit Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong Monday through Thursday, at the invitation of China’s Ministry of Public Security.

The visit is part of an effort to “raise awareness and continue to build strong relationships with the Chinese counter-narcotics law enforcement authorities,” Russell Baer, a DEA Special Agent in Washington, said in an email.

U.S. officials point to China as the top source country for synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its precursors, which have been fueling the deadliest drug abuse epidemic in U.S. history. Chinese officials dispute those claims, noting that the U.S. has produced little data to support its case.

Nonetheless, Beijing has taken significant steps to crack down on the production and export of synthetic opioids, even though these substances are not widely abused within China. China already controls fentanyl, a painkiller up to 50 times more potent than heroin, along with 18 related compounds and is considering blacklisting four more.

U.S. officials have been pressing China to control additional opioids, which can be easily purchased online from vendors in China. China, meanwhile, has been seeking U.S. support to place ketamine, an anesthetic widely abused in China, on a U.N.-maintained list of internationally controlled substances.

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