China Presses US To Reduce Opioid Demands

By Paul Fuhr 06/27/18

"When fewer and fewer Americans use fentanyl, there would be no market for it,” said one Chinese official.

hand selecting a bottle of pills

China’s drug control agency has challenged the U.S. to sharply reduce its demand for opioids, The Hill reported. The agency specifically called out the United States' role in driving demand for drugs like fentanyl.

“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 chair of China's National Narcotics Control Commission. “The U.S. 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. When fewer and fewer Americans use fentanyl, there would be no market for it.”

While the U.S. doesn’t deny the situation, a congressional report from 2017 singled out China as the “top source” of all fentanyl in the U.S. The year-long probe found that fentanyl could be easily purchased online from Chinese labs and mailed to buyers in the U.S.

Last November, on a state visit to Beijing, President Trump said that China and the U.S. would work together to curb the “flood of cheap and deadly” Chinese-made fentanyl from making it stateside. China quickly disputed the claim that it was responsible for the "flood" of fentanyl into the U.S.

A recent Bloomberg feature called fentanyl “an Internet-era plague,” though fentanyl has been around since 1960.

At the time, it was the world’s “strongest opioid approved for human medical use,” and intended to treat extreme pain and to help put surgical patients to sleep. Fentanyl is said to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

In 2014, Bloomberg noted, fentanyl killed 5,000 people in the U.S. By September 2017, the drug was responsible for more than 26,000 deaths, accounting for more than half of all opioid-related deaths that year.

“China’s drug control agencies, now and in the years to come, will place greater emphasis on drug control cooperation between China and the United States,” Liu insisted. “But I believe that to resolve this the more important issue is for the United States to strive to reduce and compress the great demand and drug consumption markets of opioids.”

China doesn’t deny that some of the NPS in America were manufactured on Chinese soil, but said that “the substances are not yet readily abused and trafficked in China itself,” The Hill noted.

Liu contends that Beijing has already taken steps to curb the production and export of synthetic drugs like fentanyl. They have even gone so far as to place fentanyl and 22 other compounds on a controlled-substances list. Liu also said that current political tensions between China and the U.S. wouldn’t affect China’s resolve in putting an end to the manufacture and trafficking of those drugs.

“The U.S. should strengthen its crackdown on distributors, traffickers and drug-related criminal rings,” Liu argued, adding that it should “investigate and arrest more lawbreakers.”

Last year, Trump labeled the opioid crisis as a public health emergency (stopping short of calling it a full-scale national emergency), and promised a comprehensive awareness campaign to help deter people from abusing drugs. 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.