Powerful Synthetic Opioid Carfentanil Now Banned
China’s National Narcotics Control Commission said Thursday that it is adding the deadly synthetic narcotic Carfentanil and three related synthetic opioids to its list of controlled substances effective March 1. Carfentanil is so powerful that it is often used as an elephant tranquilizer.The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called China’s move a “game-changer” that is highly likely to decrease the supply of one of the primary chemicals behind an epidemic of overdoses among unsuspecting drug users, especially in the United States. “It’s a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States. … It will have a definite impact.” said Russell Baer, a DEA special agent. China is the primary source country for opioids like Carfentanil, which is in the class of extremely powerful opioids called Fentanyls. These drugs began to appear in the North American drug supply last year. Dealers use the Fentanyls to cut heroin and other drugs which boosts profit margins on the sales of these illegal narcotics. China already regulates Fentanyl and 18 other related compounds, but until now Carfentanil was not among them.
The move closes a gigantic loophole in the global regulation, and thus availability, of an extremely dangerous substance. The move is expected to result in a decrease in overdose deaths in the United States. China has started to take a modern and responsible approach to regulation of chemicals used in the international drug trade. The drug enforcement agencies in China have described the threat posed by synthetic drugs as a “worldwide problem” and pushed for “all countries to strengthen the control of new psychoactive substances and work on decreasing demand”. The DEA special agent Baer said “We don’t think their scheduling actions will end with just these …” This is because as regulations hit one drug the manufacturers move on to another that may be related but not yet technically illegal. The story of the manufacture, usage, and subsequent regulation of these synthetic opioids appears likely to continue into the indefinite future.