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North America’s Fentanyl Epidemic Worsened in 2022, Fueled By China and Mexican Drug Cartels

Published: January 6, 2023
"The Faces of Fentanyl" wall, which displays photos of Americans who died from a fentanyl overdose, at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on July 13, 2022. (Image: AGNES BUN/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 2022 a staggering 110,236 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, largely driven by the spread of illicit fentanyl.

The crisis has spiraled so out of control that American life expectancy has now plummeted to its lowest level in nearly two decades, according to recently revealed  CDC data which points the finger at both COVID-19 and drug overdoses as the culprits.

“It’s not a good year for the data, let’s put it that way,” CDC statistician Kenneth Kochanek told NPR.  

Marche Osborne, a 31-year-old homeless woman who grapples with an opioid addiction and lives on the streets of Tacoma, Washington, told NPR that fentanyl is now the only drug street dealers are offering.

“Anybody will do anything for a pill, it’s ridiculous. They’re dehumanizing people. It’s not a good thing. It’s not going to go anywhere good if [the spread of fentanyl] continues,” she said.

In Canada the situation is dire as well with the country experiencing an average of approximately 20 overdose deaths a day.  According to Canadian authorities from January to June 2022, 3,556 Canadains lost their lives to drug overdoses, with the hardest hit province being British Columbia. 

“British Columbians are continuing to suffer the tragic effects of a toxic and volatile drug supply, with almost six members of our communities dying each day,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement published in early November last year. 

“Both those who use drugs occasionally and those who are substance-dependent are at risk of sudden death from the unpredictable illicit market. Individuals who have been abstinent for a period of time or those who normally use stimulants are at increased risk. Their opioid tolerance is low and the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit supply is high,” she added. 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that over the course of 2022 over 50.6 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder was seized.

China is the primary source of fentanyl

According to an unclassified United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence report, “China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked to the United States.” 

While Beijing and the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (SAR) have, in recent years, placed restrictions on more precursor chemicals, the supply continues to enter the U.S. either directly from China or via Mexico. 

In May, 2019, China officially controlled all forms of fentanyl as a class of drug, fulfilling a commitment that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader, Xi Jinping, made during a G-20 Summit. 

Xi’s commitment included investigations of known fentanyl manufacturing areas, stricter control of internet sites advertising fentanyl, stricter enforcement of shipping regulations, and the creation of special teams to investigate leads on fentanyl trafficking.

However, despite these pledges, many argue that the flood of illicit fentanyl into the U.S. is a deliberate tactic by the CCP to undermine and weaken the West. 

A report, published by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, in July 2020 argued that “China is highly unlikely to mount counternarcotics cooperation with the United States approaching the level of its collaboration with Australia on methamphetamines unless it starts experiencing its own synthetic opioid epidemic,” adding that the deterioration of U.S.-China relations may further undermine China’s willingness to diligently enforce fentanyl regulations. 


China supplies chemicals, Mexican drug cartels produce

According to a Dec. 30, 2022 press release by the DEA, fentanyl is being mass-produced at secret facilities in Mexico “with chemicals sourced largely from China.”

The administration believes that two Mexican drug cartels are primarily responsible for a large amount of the illicit fentanyl flowing into the U.S. via the southern border, the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

More alarming, the DEA recently issued a Public Safety Alert over a sharp increase in fake prescription pills containing both fentanyl and methamphetamine. 

“These pills are made to look identical to real prescription medications—including OxyContin®, Percocet®, and Xanax®—but only contain filler and fentanyl, and are often deadly,” the DEA warns.

Laboratory testing of drugs seized at the border in 2022 concluded that 60 percent of the fake pills tested “contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.”

On Jan. 6, President Biden announced that since August of last year, “Customs and Border Patrol have seized more than 20,000 pounds of deadly fentanyl” at the southern border.

He promised to meet with Mexican president, López Obrador, during the second week of January to speak about a variety of issues including strengthening the southern border and climate change but failed to mention the fentanyl crisis explicitly instead only saying he would speak about “other issues.”

Meanwhile the fentanyl crisis continues to rage across the continent, impacting every single state.

North Carolina Congressman, Gregory F. Murphy, called on the Biden Administration in February last year to take action saying, “It is clear to me as both a lawmaker and a physician of more than 30 years that the most important way to get the fentanyl drug crisis under control is by first securing our southern border. I call on the Biden Administration to take swift and decisive action to enforce our rule of law and reinstate common sense border protections as a matter of national security and public health.”