China has listed the deadly opioid carfentanil as a controlled substance, a small battle won in the U.S. war on drugs. Carfentanil is mega-opioid, 10,000 times more potent than morphine and about 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the painkiller that killed pop star Prince. Its only practical use is as an elephant tranquilizer, but drug dealers cut it up and add it to heroin and other drugs to boost profit margins. And their main supplier of carfentanil? China.
The emergence of carfentanil and fentanyl have upped the ante in the opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. Thousands of Americans have died from the drugs, many unaware that the opioids are being added to street drugs like heroin, making them even deadlier. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says carfentanil can be lethal at the 2-milligram range.
DEA agents have been seeking to change the drug’s status in China. Just months ago, China’s Ministry of Public Security’s Narcotics Control Bureau pooh-poohed claims that carfentanil was the cause of a string of opioid deaths in the U.S. and Europe. But for years, Chinese companies have offered to export carfentanil anywhere in the world for less than $2,000 a pound.
China’s regulation of the of the deadly opioid is expected to curb the surge of overdoses and deaths among users in the U.S., the DEA told NPR. Along with carfentanil, China will also regulate two similar opioids.