Op-Ed: America’s Worsening Drug Epidemic

Protesters at the White House advocate for stronger laws against Chinese manufacturers who produce Fentanyl and the increase in deaths related to their production. Washington, DC – February 26, 2022. File photo: Phil Pasquini, Shutter Stock, licensed.

NEW YORK, NY – Mexico’s Tijuana is ground zero for violence and a drug trade that fuels America’s drug problem. Three cartels are fighting for control over Tijuana – the Sinaloa Cartel, Jalisco New Generation, and the Tijuana Cartel, and there is a reason for this. The gangs make a fortune from the drugs and sex industry there, which is why they fight so hard to hold or take territory, according to a Sky News report. The area is constantly patrolled by police, the National Guard, and the Mexican army.

But this is nothing compared to the amount of Fentanyl making its way across the border into the United States. According to Reuters, US fentanyl-related deaths more than tripled over five years from 2016 to 2021. A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Wednesday showed a 280% increase, demonstrating just how acute America’s fentanyl problem is and how many people are dying because of it.

Dealing with any problem means we need to get to the root of it and trying to clear fentanyl off America’s streets means preventing them from reaching them in the first place. According to a Channel4 report, “Fentanyl drug use was the biggest cause of death for Americans aged between 18 and 45 – more than gun crime, more than road accidents. The synthetic opiate killed at least seventy thousand Americans in just one year. Fentanyl is smuggled across the Mexican border by the Sinaloa drug cartel, and US authorities have charged dozens of its members with trafficking – including the three sons of its leader, El Chapo Guzman, who’s now in a maximum security prison.”

The pressing question is, can US authorities combat the Sinaloa drug cartel on its own territory and force it to cease sending drugs across the border? And if so, how would this be accomplished?

Firstly, it is important to note that the fentanyl problem does not stem from Mexico; rather, it starts in China. In fact, under pressure from the US, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to assist in controlling fentanyl shipments. López Obrador also criticized the “rude” US pressure to curb drug trafficking and has previously argued, oddly, that fentanyl is an issue for the US and is a result of “a lack of hugs” in American families. In his letter to Xi, he defended Mexico’s efforts to reduce the supply of the dangerous drug while taking aim at US detractors who have called for Mexican drug cartels to be labeled as terrorist organizations. Some Republicans have even proposed using the US military to target these cartels.

To fight its growing drug problem, America must fight this battle outside its borders in Mexico and China where the problem originates. However, sending the US military into Mexico obviously has its complications. It would set off a firestorm in Mexico and would endanger the relations between the two countries. On the flip side, Mexico is not doing enough to fight crime, let alone the more dangerous cartel problem on its territory. The US can work to strengthen its borders, but China and the Mexican cartels are resolved to make their millions and one way or another, they will continue to smuggle drugs into the US.

Zooming out, China and Mexico have no vested interest in blocking the drug trade. They know the US will not take drastic action and both countries benefit financially from the drug trade.

In reality, there is no plausible way to fight the drug problem without sending in troops to Mexico or cutting off relations with China. These drastic measures, at least in the eyes of American lawmakers, are too risky. America’s drug epidemic will continue to worsen as lawmakers turn their heads and law enforcement has its hands tied. Indeed, without a serious on-the-ground effort to combat the influx of drugs into American territory, America’s young men and women – our children – will continue to die.

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