The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drug overdose deaths surpassed 72,000 in 2017, representing an increase of more than 6,000 deaths over the estimate projected from the data for the previous 12-month period. Fentanyl overdoses contributed significantly to this grim, new statistic.

That staggering sum works out to about 200 drug overdose deaths every single day, or one every eight minutes.

The increase was driven primarily by a continued surge in deaths involving synthetic opioids, a category that includes fentanyl. There were nearly 30,000 deaths involving those drugs in 2017, according to the preliminary data, an increase of more than 9,000 over the prior year.

Illicit Chinese drug production is the leading source of the drug.

[R]ogue chemical companies in China — operating openly and outside the reach of U.S. authorities — are the largest single source of the deadly drugs, law enforcement officials say.

“People in labs in China are producing this substance that is killing Americans,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein said in an interview. “This is a real crisis. The Chinese government has the ability to stop this if they want to. We believe they should want to do that.”

U.S. officials have pushed Beijing to shut down the labs, and say Chinese authorities have taken steps to police chemical makers. The push comes even as relations with Beijing have grown acrimonious amid an escalating trade war and U.S. unease over China’s increasing economic and military clout.

One arrow in America’s economic quiver to aim at this problem is the low postal rates that China has enjoyed. Targeting those postal rates may be the most effective option because small bags of fentanyl are readily smuggled through the mail in “micro-shipments” that are far harder to identify than other drugs.

Trump’s ordering of the U.S. Postal Service to withdraw from an obscure 192-nation postal treaty threatens to hit American shoppers used to bargains on platforms such as eBay Inc. and Inc., where thousands of listings from sellers based in China hawking dirt-cheap consumer goods will likely disappear.

The treaty, which sets fees that national postal services charge to deliver mail and small packages from other countries, gives poor and developing markets lower shipping rates than developed nations. The agreement – and another one building on it signed between the U.S. and China postal services in 2011 – has essentially given Chinese merchants a $170 million annual subsidy to ship products directly to American homes.

As an added bonus, readjusted postal rates will make American businesses more competitive against Chinese counterparts.

American scientific research is another potential arrow to target fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl’s chemical structure makes it far more lethal than other opioids, with which users may be more familiar.

While both heroin and fentanyl bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, fentanyl’s chemical make-up allows it to arrive at the opioid receptors much faster than heroin. Fentanyl also adheres more tightly to the opioid receptor than other opioids, which means that only a small amount is enough to catalyze the molecular chain of events that initiates the opiods’ effects on the body. As a result, a minuscule dose of fentanyl can have the same lethality as a much larger dose of heroin.

American medical researchers have tested a non-addictive painkiller in primates and found it to be safe and effective, which could help fight the national opioid addiction crisis.

…A team of scientists led by Prof. Mei-Chuan Ko, of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, developed a non-addictive painkiller called AT-121.

The researchers have just tested the compound in a species of non-human primates called rhesus monkeys and published the results of their experiments in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

AT-121 was designed with a dual purpose in mind: to block the addictive action of opioids and to relieve chronic pain at the same time.

More preclinical studies are being planned to prove that the drug is safe before moving into clinical trials in humans.


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