Nearly 110,000 Americans died last year of a drug overdose. Two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids. “For the individuals, the families, the communities affected, the pain caused by these deaths and by the millions who suffer with substance use is immeasurable,” declared Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the recently concluded Virtual Ministerial Meeting to Launch the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drugs.
That’s why President Biden has made it a top priority for the United States to tackle two of the critical drivers of this epidemic in the United States: untreated addiction, and drug trafficking.
America is far from alone in facing this challenge, noted Secretary Blinken:
“According to the United Nations, more than 34 million people around the world use methamphetamines or other synthetic stimulants annually."
“Every region is experiencing an alarming rise in other synthetic drugs. In Africa, it’s tramadol; in the Middle East, fake Captagon pills; in Asia, Ketamine,” added Secretary Blinken.
The criminal organizations that traffic synthetic drugs are extremely adept at exploiting weak links in our interconnected global system. When one government aggressively restricts the precursor chemical, traffickers simply buy it elsewhere. When one country closes off a transit route, traffickers quickly shift to another. This is why “we’re creating this global coalition,” said Secretary Blinken, with “three key areas of focus:”
“First, preventing the illicit manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs; second, detecting emerging threats and patterns of use; and third, advancing public health interventions and services to prevent and reduce drug use, to save lives, to support recovery for people who use drugs.”
At every step, our focus will be on developing practical policies, said Secretary Blinken:
“We need to partner with the private sector, including chemical manufacturers, shipping companies, social media platforms because this illicit trade is built on the pillars of legitimate global commerce. Most synthetic drugs are produced from chemicals that are used legally in making pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, household products.”
In addition, traffickers advertise synthetic drugs on social media, they use online apps to communicate with prospective buyers and collect payments.
“This coalition,” said Secretary Blinken, “is about protecting our citizens’ security, their health, their prosperity, it’s also about saving people’s lives, saving their futures – people who could be our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.”