News Roundup: May 24, 2018

By Roger Parloff

We’ve written a fair amount about the menace of illicit labs in China and elsewhere, producing potent and lethal synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and its analogs, often marketed over the darknet. Illicitly produced synthetic drugs now account for fully half the opioid overdose deaths in this country. Drug policy analyst Robert DuPont has warned us that “the global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs,” and that this fact is driving the future of the epidemic.

But what we’d frankly not known was that some of these illicit labs abroad are actually operating so openly that a couple Bloomberg journalists could go visit the owner of two of them at his home in Wuhan and casually inform him, to his apparent surprise, that he’d been indicted last September as a drug kingpin in Gulfport, Miss. We’d also not realized that China would react to all this by expressing offense that the US had “unilaterally” indicted one of its nationals and by arguing that the defendant had not violated any Chinese law—notwithstanding that he allegedly exported 22 drugs, including four fentanyl analogs, into the US, where they are banned. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 24, 2018”

How Synthetic Opioids—New and Lethal—Are Tested and Trafficked on the Darknet

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Five grams of fentanyl for sale as recently advertised in a darknet cryptomarket. Also sold are newly invented synthetic opioids, like MPF-47,700.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • eDarkTrends, an interdisciplinary academic group, monitors the introduction of new synthetic opioids into global illicit drug markets via “cryptomarkets” on the so-called darknet.
  • eDarkTrends noticed five new synthetic opioids being offered for sale during just a two-week stretch from March 20 to April 3, 2018.
  • Synthetic opioids—including fentanyl, its analogs, and still more exotic drugs like U47700 and its analogs—accounted for 46 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and 31 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016.
  • In Ohio, where eDarkTrends is based, fentanyl and related drugs accounted for 58.2 percent of all unintentional drug overdose deaths.

Continue reading “How Synthetic Opioids—New and Lethal—Are Tested and Trafficked on the Darknet”

News Roundup: May 18, 2018

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Photo credit: Jacob Creswick, Unsplash

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By Roger Parloff

At one level, the federal government is working with unprecedented dedication to curb the opioid crisis. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has now advanced 57 opioid-related bills (expected to reach the full House in June) while at least two Senate committees are marking up successor legislation to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Yet yesterday, at a House hearing to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Trump Administration declined an invitation (see 35:45) to send the acting director (or any other representative) to participate. A National Drug Control Strategy, due in February, has not yet been submitted. One member of theWhite House Commission on Combating Opioid Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has, in retrospect, denounced its work as a “sham.” Appropriations remains insufficient to meet demands, and the future shape of Medicaid—which undergirds addiction treatment—remains a question mark. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), The Hill reports, is working on another repeal-and-replace bill for the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 18, 2018”

Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use

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Robert L. DuPont, MD, at the 2018 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta in April.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • Psychiatrist Robert L. DuPont, MD, has been campaigning against opioid addiction for 50 years.
  • In a new Q&A, he says that the opioid crisis, “the defining epidemic of the 21st Century,” needs a “new narrative.”
  • “What’s killing these people is not just opioids. It’s opioids in combination with other drugs of abuse.”
  • “The global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs.”
  • “So illegal drug users … are able to buy more drugs, at higher potency, and lower prices, with more convenient delivery, than ever before.”
  • “We need to end the war between the treatment modalities.”

Continue reading “Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use”

An Algorithmic Breakthrough In the Fight Against Illicit Opioid Trafficking

fentanyl mass spec image

QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • When we speak of deadly illicit fentanyl, we are really referring to both fentanyl proper and dozens of chemical analogs constantly being invented in illicit labs, mainly in China.
  • New analogs have been hard for crime labs to detect and identify, but a new algorithmic breakthrough will speed up the process, it is believed.
  • With new regulations and legislation, DEA and Congress are attempting to prospectively outlaw analogs that have not yet even been invented.

Continue reading “An Algorithmic Breakthrough In the Fight Against Illicit Opioid Trafficking”