DEA working with China to combat opioid epidemic - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

DEA working with China to combat opioid epidemic

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - On Thursday, the President of China will arrive in Palm Beach County, which is maybe the capital of overdoses in Florida due to fentanyl and carfentanil. Drug Enforcement Administration agents say those deadly synthetic opioids are coming here illegally through China.

DEA agents are already in talks with the Chinese government to crack down on labs manufacturing and shipping fentanyl. The Chinese President's visit, they say, can only help that effort. DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge John McKenna says just a month ago China outlawed carfentanil.

Behind the scenes, the DEA office in West Palm Beach has been making moves to take deadly opioids off our streets.

"We make small buys of heroin throughout the county, Martin County, St. Lucie, in all my area of responsibility and we test it to see what's on the street," said McKenna.

In the last year, fentanyl and carfentanil have popped up as the main ingredients, in some deadly cases the only ingredient in what's being sold on the street as heroin.

"You're playing rush and roulette basically. You might as well just put a gun to your head and spin the barrel cause you don't know what you're getting," added Agent McKenna.

McKenna says the drugs are coming from labs in China.

"I have one of my agents whose doing a very big international case, has visited China twice and we've gotten to the point with the Chinese government and the Chinese law enforcement over there that we're exchanging information and we have an open dialogue," said McKenna.

A dialogue about creating stronger laws in China to crack down on manufacturers who fly under the radar by changing formulas in the substances. They create a new compound that's not illegal to export our of China.

"Any derivative of a certain substance would be illegal here. You just can’t change one molecule or add something to it or subtract to it. It would still be illegal here because it's basically the same substance. That's what we’re trying to share with the Chinese and our counterparts over there and they are very receptive to it," added McKenna.

Agent McKenna says the Chinese President's visit with President Donald Trump in Palm Beach County may strengthen efforts already in motion.

"With the President of China meeting our President, it can only help," said McKenna. 

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