How Fentanyl Gets into the United States.

AuthorCastillo, Tessie

FENTANYL is unique among illicit drugs, not only for its potency, but also for the way in which it enters the United States.

Unlike most illicit substances, which are either manufactured in the United States or smuggled across the southern border, most fentanyl is shipped directly to customers by mail (usually from China). In fact, according to a January 2018 report to the U.S. Senate, fentanyl is readily available for sale on the open Internet and through the "dark web" (a collection of online sites that hide their IP addresses so their locations can't be searched).

One seller, the report said, was selling two grams of powdered fentanyl for $145 with guaranteed arrival, or a $78 purchase that carries the risk of being seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the agency that monitors international packages. Fentanyl can also be pressed into pill form and sold by the tablet.

Illicit fentanyl has sprung from China's vast, underregulated pharmaceutical industry. Until 2017, China had no ban on the manufacturing of fentanyl and any enterprising chemist could create the drug for shipment to U.S. customers.

Two years ago, under pressure from the United States, China banned the...

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