Piles of needle-ridden corpses bear silent witness to an ever-increasing number of deaths caused by overdosing on synthetic opioid drugs.
The problem is global in scope. Experts say the solution requires cooperation around the world.
During the U.N. meeting about narcotics, the United States took a leading role in illustrating the problem and motivated a consensus among the attendees. The primary focus was on fentanyl and its extended family of new opioids.
U.N. Mobilizes To Meet The Challenge Head On
A key point that was brought up was how darknet markets make it easier than ever to buy and sell dangerous drugs.
The interesting thing about the new synthetic opioids is the quantity of the product that is traded between individual buyer and seller—a few milligrams per transaction being sold in some cases. Such practices make it extremely difficult for law enforcement to track.
Multiple international state agencies are now highly aware of the world-spanning problem, and joint operations between them are being organized.
This speaks to the great potency of the synthesized opioids. One called carfentanil is stronger than morphine by 10,000 times.
Numerous similar types of drugs don’t even come with a name, known only by their scientific chemical makeup. The synthetic nature of the new drugs creates difficulties for international drug control laws to be employed against the substances.
In a unanimous resolution, the members of the U.N. committee voted to control fentanyl as well as five other opioid analogs. With this done, 186 countries will be required to institute domestic oversight and monitoring initiatives that will specifically target harmful opioids.
This is only the beginning—more is being pushed out, mostly directed from the U.S. Their agenda includes accelerating the control of opioid production, pushing countries to voluntarily cooperate with information-sharing on the trafficking and use trends, strengthen the ability for law enforcement to curb the selling online and to stop illicit shipments from being delivered.
International Narcotics Control Board Join with Universal Postal Union
The INCB and the UPU are currently working together by sharing information and refining international shipping arrangements. The president of the INCB, Dr. Viroj Sumyai, has stated an understanding of the growing technological changes that help drive synthetic opioid sales abroad.
Ambassador Bishar Abdirahman Hussein, representing the UPU, has said he looks forward to working closely with the INBC to combat toxic opioid trafficking. Living in a healthy world is a chief concern of the ambassador.
Both agencies are planning and implementing new interdiction techniques having to do with nullifying the shipping of contraband using the darknet.
Plague & Death, War & Famine Had Scheduling Issues
The opioid crisis is a primary cause for the panic-striking at the U.N. today.
The crisis was known even before October 2017 when U.S. President Donald Trump declared it a national health emergency.
Hundreds of thousands of people were prescribed substances such as fentanyl by doctors for acute and chronic pain.
Mass prescriptions were filled at the behest of big pharma, which turned a great profit off selling the opioid drugs.
The problem was that the drugs were highly addictive, more addictive than morphine even. When the prescriptions ran out for patients, they were left with a debilitating addiction.
Symptoms of the addiction included poor coordination, chronic drowsiness, shallow or slow breathing rate, nausea and other severe conditions.
It would seem that people had little choice but to turn to the black market in order to self-medicate. Heroin laced with synthetic opioids saw a large rise in sales. Deaths caused by overdose saw a massive increase at the same time.
Actions against those thoughts responsible are underway around the world. A lawsuit brought against big pharma by the state of Delaware has been kept in-house despite being pressed to be heard in the federal court for the time being.
Criminal Or Victim, a Duality
Reading the U.N. International Drug Control Conventions from 1961, one can tell from the opening in resolution III that there was recognition by the participants that drug addiction was often a symptom of poverty, which should be seen as much a disease as a crime.
As time moved on, more focus was given to tracking drug smugglers and fighting a “War on Drugs” at a worldwide level.
Much of the groundwork for this attitude change was laid in the early 1980’s headed by leaders such as U.S. President Ronald Regan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Yet even in the 1961 convention, the control of poppies and poppy straw was strictly under international treaties. Poppies are the primary ingredient in opium, a highly addictive numbing agent that plagued China in the past, much the same way synthetic opioids plague the world today.
Many countries invoke punitive justice against dealers and addicts. Some, such as Russia, Indonesia, China and the Philippines skip the justice part and simply execute many drug offenders found. The fact that countries which murder caught drug users are allowed to make use of U.N. resources cannot be called progress. However, such travesties must be upheld in the world due to the U.N.’s focus on cooperation and the desire to see an end to epidemics that have seen tens of thousands killed by overdoses.
A South American Approach
A comprehensive report from the Center for Legal and Social Studies in ArgentinaTop of FormBottom of Form found that harsh prohibitionist policies had an extremely detrimental effect on Latin countries. Human rights violations increased as more military action took place.
In 2016, Columbia, Mexico, and Guatemala had their request heard for a U.N. meeting on the world drug problem (UNGASS). Questions as to the effectiveness of the three international drug control conventions were raised and many believed that the “War on Drugs” approach does more harm than good. Most Latin American countries agreed that a “people, not substances” type of arrangement should be the way things are done.
The leaders in favor of reform were met with frustration as the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held that the three drug control conventions were cornerstones to their international policy. The UNODC argued that the War on Drugs was not a failure and was still in the process of working.
Not much was lost for Latin America. Mexico and other countries continued to pursue legalization for benign drugs such as marijuana, even for recreational use.
Heart Of Darkness
Transnational pharmaceutical companies sold massive amounts of highly addictive substances to be used by patients all around the world.
Those patients were cut off and made to go to the black market to get relief; the ones that did not overdose from prescribed medication anyway.
Black markets have little to no oversight of the products sold, so anyone buying off of them is always at risk. Additionally to this point, even if what is bought is legitimate, the person buying it is usually not a licensed medical professional. Mistakes in dosage are a given in this situation.
As this becomes more of a problem, concerned countries call for cooperation to crack down on black markets with draconian U.N. laws already in place.
It’s possible certain countries will use this as an excuse to create more intrusive surveillance policies in the future.
Some countries seem not to want anything to do with the INCB and may resist, however, they will be pressured by larger states not to, namely the U.S. who seems to be the leading voice in this.
It will be fascinating to see how things play out from here.
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