US diplomats at the UN general assembly in New York have unveiled steps aimed at tackling the proliferation of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs which the American secretary of state, Antony Blinken, described as a “global threat”.
At a meeting on Monday, the most senior US diplomat announced the formation of an international coalition to address the crisis, saying that the US “may have been to some extent a canary in the coalmine when it comes to fentanyl, but alas, we are not alone”.
Blinken pointed to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs as the number-one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49. The US recorded 110,000 overdose deaths last year, with more than two-thirds linked to the synthetic opioid.
He noted that the issue of synthetic drugs – which can be created in a room no larger than the stage he was on – was different from the plant-based drug trade that preceded it. That’s because the plant-based trade took “a pretty large-scale enterprise in order to cultivate the crops, bring them to market”.
Blinken said the problem was global in reach, with criminal organizations “exploiting gaps in interconnected systems to bring new drugs to new places in new ways”. Blinken pointed to tramadol in Africa, to fake Captagon pills in the Middle East and to ketamine as well as amphetamines in Asia.
“This crisis has an immeasurable cost,” Blinken said. “It has devastated families. It’s devastated communities. It’s also been overwhelming to our public health and criminal justice systems.”