Blinken Confronts Congress on Deadly Fentanyl Crisis

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Pushes for Global Coalition to Counter Fentanyl Trafficking

On September 7, 2021, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken conducted a meeting with bipartisan members of the House of Representatives and Senate to discuss mutual efforts in countering fentanyl trafficking worldwide. During the meeting, the participants addressed concerns regarding national security, global health, and public safety, which resulted from illegally manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. Secretary Blinken expressed his commitment to continuously counter the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of fentanyl, calling for a global coalition to address this shared threat.

The Threat of Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an incredibly potent synthetic opioid that has the potential to be life-threatening even at very low doses. It is frequently added to other drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin to heighten their effects or present them as a more potent product. Fentanyl is incredibly addictive, and overdosing on it can easily occur, leading to respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, or even death.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl has become a prevalent concern, particularly in the United States, where it has led to an epidemic of drug overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 70 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2019 in the US were due to opioids, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which was responsible for a staggering 36,509 deaths.

Bipartisan Efforts to Counter Fentanyl Trafficking

Secretary Blinken and members of the House and Senate addressed this pressing concern and emphasized the need for coordinated efforts to tackle the issue to prevent further suffering and loss of life. The Secretary noted how fentanyl trafficking had become a global threat, with the drug being produced mainly in China and trafficked across the globe through various means, including mail, cargo vessels, and online marketplaces.

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To counter this trend, Secretary Blinken underscored the importance of federal and state government cooperation and emphasized the need to partner with the private sector to combat illicit fentanyl trafficking. The Secretary also highlighted some innovative work he had witnessed during his travel within the United States, including to Denver and the CDC, where treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts were underway, along with strong partnerships with law enforcement agencies to combat fentanyl trafficking.

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The State Department’s Commitment to Countering Fentanyl Trafficking

During the meeting, Secretary Blinken expressed the State Department’s commitment to countering the illicit manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl. The department currently leads the US government’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the supply of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids originating from China and other countries and provides support for international partners in their counter-narcotics efforts.

The State Department has also established a robust program to work with partner countries to implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN Convention against Corruption, and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, all of which play a crucial role in counter-fentanyl trafficking.

Looking Forward

Secretary Blinken’s meeting with bipartisan members of the House and Senate reinforced the need for a global coalition to counter fentanyl trafficking effectively. The Secretary’s recognition of the problem and the State Department’s resolve in pursuing a solution marks the beginning of a coordinated international effort to stop the manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl, making the world safer and healthier, free from the threat of drug trafficking.