“The United States has led in raising the world’s awareness of the nature of the global illicit synthetic drug supply chain, and we are working tirelessly to make commonsense and responsible measures to disrupt the exploitation of legitimate commerce a global norm.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta published an op-ed in USA TODAY highlighting how President Biden’s bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in San Francisco provides us the opportunity to better address the production and trafficking of deadly fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.

Just last week, President Biden and President Xi made a landmark agreement to re-open bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics. This new chapter in our relationship with the PRC is critical to our global efforts to disrupt illicit synthetic drug trafficking and save lives.

To advance President Biden’s Unity Agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to address the overdose epidemic and save lives. President Biden is also calling on Congress for immediate action to help provide $1.55 billion to strengthen addiction treatment, overdose prevention measures, and recovery support services across the country, and more than $1.2 billion to crack down on drug trafficking to keep dangerous drugs like fentanyl out of our communities.

USA TODAY: Fentanyl is pouring across US borders. Biden’s deal with China can help stop it.

By Dr. Rahul Gupta

Our nation is facing the most dynamic and complex illegal drug environment in history, one that takes the life of an American every five minutes around the clock.

Compared with plant-based drugs, which humankind has endured for centuries, modern synthetic drugs like fentanyl are extremely potent and highly lethal. They are manufactured outside of the United States, and brought across our borders and into our communities by a variety of means. And today, the ability of an American teenager to find illicit drugs is as simple as opening a social media app.

The producers and traffickers of these deadly drugs operate as a global business and exploit the legitimate 21st century global economy that moves products, ideas and money across borders with incredible speed. These transnational criminal organizations often deal in drugs, human and weapons trafficking, and money laundering all at once.

This is a national security and economic prosperity issue as much as it is a law enforcement and public health one, and combatting it is one of the key pillars of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan Unity Agenda for the nation.

For the first time, the Biden-Harris administration is synchronizing a focused response to disrupt the illegal commerce of drug production and trafficking by simultaneously attacking four key vulnerabilities in the illicit fentanyl supply chain: the precursor chemicals used to create these drugs, some of which are unregulated industrial chemicals that can be shipped in plain sight; the pill presses, die molds and encapsulating machines used to produce the counterfeit pills that are harming so many Americans; the physical movement of these raw materials around the world by unwitting commercial shippers; and the flow of ill-gotten financial benefits and operating capital to the individuals and groups directly and indirectly involved in the illicit drug industry.

Synthetic drugs are a global threat

However, synthetic drugs pose a threat not just to the United States but to the global community. Today, the world can be divided into three types of nations: those that have a synthetic drug problem and know it, like the United States; those that have a synthetic drug problem and don’t know it; and those that don’t yet have a synthetic drug problem but will in the near future.

In July, the United States launched a global coalition to address the synthetic drug threat. More than 120 countries and international organizations are now collaborating to accelerate efforts against illicit synthetic drugs and adopt a coordinated approach to prevent illicit drug manufacturing, detect emerging drug threats, disrupt trafficking, address illicit finance and respond to their public health impacts.

The United States has led in raising the world’s awareness of the nature of the global illicit synthetic drug supply chain, and we are working tirelessly to make commonsense and responsible measures to disrupt the exploitation of legitimate commerce a global norm.

We are leading by example as well, by committing tens of billions of dollars, more than half our federal drug control budget, to public health measures to prevent our youth from falling into the cycle of drug use and addiction, reduce the harms caused by these drugs and save lives, extend treatment services to everyone who needs and wants them, and make our communities and workplaces recovery ready. 

China makes chemicals used to produce fentanyl

Yet, as the world’s largest manufacturer and shipper of precursor chemicals for illicit synthetic drug production, as well as pill presses and die molds, the People’s Republic of China has long held the greatest potential in helping arrest the growth of an ever-expanding global synthetic drug threat.

Under President Joe Biden’s leadership, China has agreed to partner with the United States in meeting this challenge. The world should expect great nations to work together to solve difficult and consequential global problems, and the United States welcomes China’s renewed engagement in an issue in which our interests align.

The American people and the world will watch closely as we jointly confront the growing problem of illicit synthetic drug production and trafficking at the global level.

America’s leadership at the global level, and our deepening bilateral cooperation with key partner countries, is poised to inflict lasting damage to the transnational drug trade and shape the outcome we want: a healthier, safer and more prosperous future for all.


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