Even though crime has fallen with people spending less time out and about, the drug trade remains active.
Police in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, seized more than 3,700 liters, or about 1,000 gallons, of methylfentanyl. It was part of Asia’s biggest-ever interception of illicit drugs, precursors and drug-making equipment, including 193 million methamphetamine tablets known as yaba. At 17.5 tons, or 35,000 pounds, the yaba almost equaled the amount seized in the previous two years in Myanmar.
Capturing the drugs is great, but it points to the possibility of a huge health concern if drug dealers intend to flood the region with fentanyl.
Fentanyl and its derivatives have caused more than 130,000 overdose deaths in the United States and Canada in the past five years, according to government agencies. The opioid epidemic has not swept Asia, Europe or Australasia but there have been signs it is an emerging threat.
If Asia suffers with widespread fentanyl use and deaths at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic, the death toll could be catastrophic.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and drug traffickers are mixing it with heroin, meth and cocaine, adding to their potency and lethality.
Half of all heroin and cocaine overdoses in the United States included substances with traces of synthetic opioids in 2017, a Rand Corporation analysis found.
A Canadian survey found 73% of those who tested positive for fentanyl did not know they had consumed it.
Luckily for Western nations, it looks like most of this haul was destined to remain in the region, but the drug bust shows that we can’t let our guard down on other issues just because the coronavirus takes up all the airtime in the media.