Three months ago, China promised in the recent trade negotiations it would halt illegal shipments of the opioid fentanyl into this country.

While President Donal Trump was hopeful China would enforce the agreement, he has now accused his Chinese counterpart of failing to fulfill the promises.

“My friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of fentanyl to the United States – this never happened and many Americans continue to die,” Trump said in a tweet.

“We’re losing thousands of people to fentanyl,” he later told reporters.

The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, there is some good news on the war against opioid addiction. Drug overdose deaths have dropped in this country for the first time since 1990.

Three decades of ever-escalating deaths from drug overdoses in the United States may have come to an end, according to preliminary government data made public Wednesday. Total drug overdose deaths in America declined by around 5 percent last year, the first drop since 1990.

The decline was due almost entirely to a dip in deaths from prescription opioid painkillers, the medicines that set off the epidemic of addiction that has lasted nearly two decades.

… “We are all cautiously optimistic and grateful to see this drop,” said Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia, a city that has been particularly hard hit by fentanyl deaths. “But no one can point to any one thing.”

Many in the addiction and law enforcement fields say the overall drop in overdose deaths may be because of a combination of changes in prescribing that have tightened the supply of opioid pills. More cautious prescribing of opioid painkillers has been a result of numerous limits instituted in many states in recent years. Prescription painkillers were the main cause of overdose deaths until heroin, and then fentanyl, surpassed them over the last decade.

Drug enforcement professionals indicate that the enhanced awareness of the dangers of fentanyl has slowed the rise in the number of deaths associated with that substance. Additionally, the fading presence in some regions of carfentanil, a deadly and more potent analog of fentanyl, could also be a factor in the drop.

It’s smart that the Trump administration has a multi-faceted approach to addressing the drug crisis. China appears to be stalling and hoping to wait for a new US president instead of negotiating with the current one in good faith.

Sadly, however, methamphetamine is surging now.

Federal drug data provided exclusively to NPR show seizures of meth by authorities have spiked, rising 142% between 2017 and 2018.

“Seizures indicate increasing trafficking in these drugs,” says John Eadie, public health coordinator for the federal government’s National Emerging Threats Initiative, part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. “So if seizures have more than doubled, it probably means more than double trafficking in methamphetamines. And with that go additional deaths.”

Overdose deaths involving meth and other psychostimulants did rise last year — by 21% (to 12,987 from 10,749 in 2017) — according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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