Top U.S. State Department official: America making progress in fighting heroin and painkiller overdose epidemic

11:16 a.m. Monday, April 17, 2017 AJC Homepage
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
America is making progress in the fight against its heroin and fentanyl overdose epidemic by working closely with Mexican and Chinese authorities, a top U.S. State Department official plans to announce at a summit in Atlanta this week.

America is making progress in the fight against its opioid and heroin overdose epidemic by working closely with Mexican and Chinese authorities, a top U.S. State Department official plans to announce at a summit in Atlanta this week.

Mexico is now the source of most of the heroin consumed in the U.S., William Brownfield, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The former ambassador, who plans to speak Tuesday at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, added that more than half of the fentanyl that comes here passes through Mexico, though most of it probably originates in China. 

News | WSBTV

What You Need Know About Fentanyl

Mexican and U.S. authorities are working together in eradicating opium poppy — from which heroin is made — “in a way that we have never done before,” Brownfield said. The U.S. government is also striving to ensure Mexico is regulating fentanyl and its precursors within its borders so it won’t be diverted. 

Within the last year and a half, Brownfield added, the Chinese government has moved to control 116 new synthetic drugs, a step U.S. authorities had been urging for years. And in February, he said, the Chinese took steps to regulate four fentanyl precursors. 

Contributed
William Brownfield, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, is scheduled to speak Tuesday at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

“We are today facing,” Brownfield said, “the worst drug crisis that we have dealt with in the United States, I would argue, since the 1980s and our crack cocaine crisis.” 

“There is no solution to the heroin-fentanyl-opioids crisis that does not include an international component,” he continued. “Where the product is produced, the routes by which it comes into the United States and the organizations that move and traffic the product -- all are foreign or international in scope.”

View full experience