Lab drug ‘not cause of US deaths’

Pow­er­ful opi­oid is vari­ant of chem­i­cal that killed mu­si­cian Prince in April

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN and ZHANG YAN

China hasn’t black­listed car­fen­tanil, a syn­thetic opi­oid, as a con­trolled sub­stance, thus it can still be legally pro­duced by qual­i­fied chem­i­cal com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior of­fi­cial at the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity’s Nar­cotics Con­trol Bureau, who de­clined to be named.

He spoke to China Daily in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, re­spond­ing to re­cent me­dia re­ports in Western coun­tries such as the United States and Canada al­leg­ing that Chi­na­ex­ported car­fen­tanil had caused a rise in over­dose deaths there.

“There is no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence or sci­en­tific statis­tics to show that the China-ex­ported sub­stance has been widely abused in the US or Europe, lead­ing to deaths there,” he said.

Car­fen­tanil, one of the most po­tent opi­oids known, is a vari­ant of fen­tanyl, a pre­scrip­tion painkiller that killed US mu­si­cian Prince ear­lier this year. US ex­perts said it’s 100 times stronger than fen­tanyl and thou­sands of times more deadly than heroin.

An Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio re­port on Sept 2 said car­fen­tanil is be­ing sold on streets in the US, ei­ther mixed with heroin or pressed into pills that look like pre­scrip­tion drugs.

That has deadly con­se­quences, it said. The US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion said much of the car­fen­tanil be­ing sold on the streets is il­lic­itly im­ported from China, with­out giv­ing fur­ther de­tails.

“It is mere spec­u­la­tion, as there is no solid ev­i­dence to prove the source, the ex­act num­ber of vic­tims, or the sever­ity of the prob­lem in these coun­tries,” the of­fi­cial said. “There have only been some in­di­vid­ual cases of drug ad­dicts in the US dy­ing from us­ing it.”

How­ever, he added that the min­istry would fur­ther tighten man­age­ment and con­trol over such sub­stances.

“It stim­u­lates the hu­man ner­vous sys­tem and does harm to peo­ple’s health, while hav­ing no med­i­cal value,” he said.

Melvin Pat­ter­son, a staff co­or­di­na­tor with the con­gres­sional and pub­lic af­fairs depart­ment at the US Depart­ment of State, told China Daily in an email that the DEA and China have a sound work­ing re­la­tion­ship.

“The DEA has of­fices in China and the agents there do a great job work­ing with Chi­nese law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to pre­vent il­le­gal sub­stances from be­ing shipped to the US,” Pat­ter­son said.

The com­par­a­tive strength of car­fen­tanil in re­la­tion to fen­tanyl

Fac­ing pub­lic health and so­cial sta­bil­ity chal­lenges caused by nar­cotic and psy­chotropic drugs, widely known as “lab drugs”, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is­sued a reg­u­la­tion last year to im­prove con­trol and sur­veil­lance of such sub­stances, ac­cord­ing to Wei Xiao­jun, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the China Na­tional Nar­cotics Con­trol Com­mis­sion.

“Such ‘ lab drugs’ have be­come the sec­ond-largest abused sub­stance, fol­low­ing mar­i­juana, in Europe and North Africa,” he told China Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional last year.

Un­der the reg­u­la­tion, China added an­other 116 syn­thetic drugs to the con­trolled-sub­stance list, in­clud­ing acetylfen­tanyl, a less po­tent fen­tanyl vari­ant, pre­vi­ous re­ports said.

Once “black­listed”, the man­u­fac­ture, sales, trans­porta­tion, im­port/ex­port, stock­ing and use of a sub­stance is strictly pro­hib­ited and se­verely pun­ished.

Xiao Yingxia, a di­vi­sion direc­tor at the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity’s Nar­cotics Con­trol Bureau, told CRI that some of the newly added sub­stances had, so far, not been found to be abused within the coun­try.

“But they had been found be­ing pro­duced and mar­keted in China, and were con­firmed to be lead­ing to abuse and over­dose deaths abroad,” Xiao said, ad­ding that the move to black­list such sub­stances high­lights the global co­op­er­a­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity adopted in fight­ing such is­sues.

Con­tact the writ­ers at shan­juan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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