Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) on Wednesday released the results of a nearly yearlong bipartisan investigation showing the ease of which drug traffickers in China can ship powerful synthetic opioids into the United States.
The 100-page report found that when it comes to fentanyl — which can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin — those selling online in China prefer to ship the drug into the country through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rather than private mail shippers, reportedly because the sellers think there’s less of a risk that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will seize the package.
Lawmakers and the White House are grappling with how to curb an opioid epidemic that’s led to skyrocketing death rates. The number of deaths from drugs like fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This bipartisan investigation has uncovered how incredibly easy it is to buy these deadly drugs online and have them shipped here through the mail,” Carper said in a statement.
“We have also learned how ill-equipped federal agencies were to prevent drug smugglers from taking advantage of a massive surge in recent years of e-commerce and international mail to ship synthetic opioid, like fentanyl, into our communities.”
The report’s release comes ahead of a hearing on the issue Thursday, where officials from various agencies will be called to testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations led by Portman and Carper.
In performing the investigation, subcommittee staff told reporters that they googled “fentanyl for sale.” Though they didn’t ultimately buy the drug, they said they communicated with six sellers over the course of three months.