The Growing Fentanyl Crisis: A Look at the Role of Mexico and Potential Solutions

Avery Emberly

Updated Monday, October 9, 2023 at 4:38 AM CDT

The Growing Fentanyl Crisis: A Look at the Role of Mexico and Potential Solutions

The rise of the fentanyl crisis in the United States has become a pressing issue, with devastating consequences for communities across the country. As the death toll continues to climb, politicians and experts are grappling with the best approach to tackle this epidemic. One aspect that has come under scrutiny is the role of Mexico in the production and trafficking of fentanyl.

Mexico has been accused of turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and undermining bilateral collaboration with the United States. The country is considered the "principal source" of fentanyl, with cartels manufacturing the drug using precursor chemicals largely smuggled from China. Wide swaths of Mexico are under the de facto control of drug cartels, further exacerbating the problem.

The GOP presidential candidates have expressed their intention to use military forces to go after drug gangs in Mexico. Ron DeSantis, in particular, has made controversial statements, advocating for suspected drug smugglers at the U.S.-Mexico border to be shot dead. However, analysts and nonpartisan experts warn that military force is not the answer and fuels racism and xenophobia.

It is crucial to note that the supply of illicit fentanyl cannot be permanently stopped through enforcement alone. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top administration officials have traveled to Mexico to discuss strategies to stop the flow of fentanyl across the border. While the U.S. has invaded Mexican territory in the past and tried to overthrow governments in Latin America, a collaborative approach is now being pursued.

Mexico's opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential election has expressed willingness to accept more U.S. agents and help. Mexico is the top trading partner of the U.S. and has agreed to host agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Cooperation and joint efforts between the two countries are crucial to addressing the fentanyl crisis effectively.

Families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl support the candidates' antagonism toward Mexico, as they seek justice and solutions. Andrea Thomas, for example, started the foundation Voices for Awareness after her daughter died from taking a counterfeit pill. The Democrats also face political pressure on border issues and have funded national programs to reduce fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid, has become a leading cause of death in the United States. It can be made entirely in a laboratory and is not derived from poppy plants like heroin. Fentanyl and other drugs closely related to it have displaced heroin and other opioids in illicit U.S. drug markets. The drug typically takes the form of white powders that can be stamped into pills, mixed with other drugs, or sold alone.

The potency of fentanyl is a significant concern, with a gram being around 50 times as powerful as pure heroin. Even experienced drug users can overdose on fentanyl due to its potency and small dosing errors. Tragically, fentanyl overdoses have doubled among teenagers over the last decade, often due to mistakenly taking fentanyl pills that they believed contained a different drug.

Many deadly overdoses involve mixtures of fentanyl with other drugs, including xylazine and methamphetamine. The fentanyl crisis, in terms of mortality, is larger than any other drug crisis in American history. Shockingly, fentanyl has killed more Americans than the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. In the 12-month period ending in April 2023, around 77,000 Americans died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Addressing the fentanyl crisis requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond military force and enforcement. Cooperation between the United States and Mexico, along with increased funding for prevention, treatment, and education, is crucial. By focusing on collaboration, awareness, and support for affected communities, we can work towards mitigating the devastating impact of fentanyl and saving lives.

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