The accidental death of legendary musician Prince back in April, which resulted from his consumption of an overdose of fentanyl, has ushered in a sweeping awareness of the drug and just how much of a problem it has become in the U.S. To try to stop just how much fentanyl is getting into the country, the U.S. and China announced a partnership during President Barack Obama’s visit to China at the beginning of September in which the two countries would work together to try to stop as much of the powerful drug from reaching the U.S. as possible.
Why China? China has actually made significant progress over the course of the past year in trying to control over 100 controversial substances, and National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that China recognizes that a majority of the fentanyl and related drugs that make it to the U.S. actually originate in China.
The White House called this partnership a step in the right direction toward protecting the American people from what they termed “dangerous and increasingly lethal narcotics.” Fentanyl, for one, is the cherry on top of an already dangerous cake with the increasingly popular and serious heroin epidemic in this country. What makes fentanyl so dangerous is that because its main use is for cancer treatment, it is vastly more potent than its morphine or heroin counterparts.
The two countries also agreed to exchange information relating to law enforcement and science, and that there exists the potential for “coordinated actions” at some point in the future.
Heroin, laced with fentanyl and other illicit substances, has been responsible for a slew of overdoses and deaths in recent months in areas like Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, making it a prime catalyst for an epidemic. And what’s worse is that often those who are taking what they think is just heroin do not even know that the heroin is laced with fentanyl, and yet they are taking such a powerful combination of drugs that they can potentially overdose and die right there on the spot.
And when users get what they call “dope sick,” which is when their bodies go into withdrawals from heroin, it’s no joke. Symptoms of this condition include intense cramping, vomiting, profuse sweating, diarrhea, and crippling anxiety, so it’s understandable why anyone suffering from these symptoms would take just about anything to feel better, and why they don’t think twice before taking it - even though they may be taking the last dose they ever take.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 650,000 opioid prescriptions are provided to patients in the U.S. on a daily basis, and nearly 4,000 of these users are using the drug for non-medical means. On average, nearly 80 people die every day in the U.S. from an opioid-related overdose, as per HHS estimates that were calculated back in June.
In addition to the U.S.’ partnership with China, the White House statement also addresses President Obama’s budget request for over $1 billion in order to treat Americans who suffer with substance abuse disorders, as well as to provide the necessary means to prevent overdoses. Price urged Congress to approve this budget.