China Says US Shouldn’t Point Fingers for Opioid Crisis

A top official in China's drug control agency has hit back at accusations that Chinese suppliers are fueling the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, arguing that Washington should pay more attention to domestic factors before pointing fingers at others. "It's common knowledge that most new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been designed in laboratories in the United States and Europe, and their deep-processing and consumption also mostly take place there," said Liu Yuejin, deputy chief of China's National Narcotics Control Commission, during a press conference.

"The US should adopt a comprehensive and balanced strategy to reduce and suppress the huge demand in the country for fentanyl and other similar drugs as soon as possible," said Liu, whose comments coincided with the release of China's annual drug situation report. "When fewer and fewer Americans use fentanyl, there would be no market for it." NPS include such "designer drugs" as fentanyl, a cheap synthetic opioid at least 50 times stronger than heroin that has been flooding the US.

A 2017 congressional report labeled China as the primary source of fentanyl in the US, citing law enforcement and drug investigators. Responding to a CNN question on China's plans to further curb the sale and shipment of fentanyl products to the US, Liu gave a laundry list of measures that he said the US authorities should adopt, ranging from intensified drug-prevention campaigns to better treatment and assistance for drug users. "The US should strengthen its crackdown on distributors, traffickers and drug-related criminal rings," he added. "It should investigate and arrest more lawbreakers."

In its annual drug report released Monday, China says the number of drug abusers in the country of 1.4 billion people rose nearly 2% in 2017 to 2.55 million, but the growth rate declined. The use of synthetic drugs and opioids accounted for the overwhelming majority of the cases. The report warns of fast-emerging new drugs, including those made of non-controlled chemicals, as well as the continued threats of internet-based sales and cross-border trafficking -- citing more than 1,600 arrests of overseas suspects.

In the United States, since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died of drug overdoses, with opioids accounting for the majority of those and now killing more Americans every year than breast cancer. Recently released figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016.

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