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Fighting a New Drug Trafficking Paradigm

Mar 19, 2018

The ever-evolving illicit drug trade is shifting to a new paradigm. Increasingly, international criminal organizations are dealing in highly dangerous synthetic drugs.

Synthetic drugs, like fentanyl and its analogues, are chemically produced substances and extremely deadly.One of the reasons that traffickers like to deal in synthetic drugs is because a very small amount goes a very long way. And because synthetic drugs are so potent, a small amount can be easily shipped to customers who place an order through the internet.

This undated photo shows fentanyl pills. (File)
This undated photo shows fentanyl pills. (File)

“Traffickers are exploiting the online market through open and dark net sites, and then trafficking these substances through the international mail and express consignment shipments,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs James Walsh at the recently-held 61st Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).“These substances are shipped in small quantities – a couple milligrams for example – making these packages difficult for law enforcement and regulatory officials to identify and intercept.”

And as a bonus for the trafficker, even a small amount of synthetic drugs often has higher profit margins than other narcotics.

“Clearly, this international problem requires a smart, strategic, and coordinated international response,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Walsh. “We must work together to identify innovative options to curb the rapid proliferation of these new synthetic drugs.”

The United States sponsored a resolution approved by the CND that will help increase information sharing, data collection, and analysis by promoting and amplifying existing global web-based tools. In turn, better information sharing will provide a better indication of emerging trends and improve cooperation among experts in the field who work to disrupt illicit supplies of synthetic drugs and the chemicals used to produce them.

The United States also sponsored a side event at the CND on “New Methods of Synthetic Drug Trafficking.” The event improved the understanding of the new drug trafficking pattern of using the internet and international delivery services.

“This new trafficking pattern shows that we are all vulnerable,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Walsh. “We must work as an international community to curb this new paradigm in drug trafficking – lives depend upon it.”