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US drug czar wants India to stop flow of chemicals used by Mexican cartels

Newsman: the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has cautioned in its National Drug Threat Assessments that in the last few years, Mexican cartels are increasing the amounts of precursor chemicals they get from India. Its capital, New Delhi, has significant pharmaceutical and chemical industries and international ports.  For years, Mexican cartels have bought  precursor chemicals from China and used them to make synthetic drugs like fentanyl and meth in Mexican super labs. The drugs are then smuggled into the U.S.

The DEA’s National Drug Threat Assessment published in 2020 cautioned: “While Mexico and China are the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States, India is emerging as a source for finished fentanyl powder and fentanyl precursor chemicals.”

Director of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. drug czar, Dr. Rahul Gupta, returned to his native country this month to meet with Indian officials on a joint mission to reduce the illegal flow of chemicals used to make deadly fentanyl.

“The U.S.-India relationship on health care is critical, as India hopes to be one of the global leaders,” Gupta told The Courier Journal during an interview on his trip to Delhi.

“The oldest democratic country and the largest democratic country are trying to come together to work strategically in curbing drug threats,” he said.

Gupta discussed his concern about fentanyl, largely blamed for 107,000 overdose deaths last year, with The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, in West Virginia in August. He said he is haunted by a somber statistic: On average, someone dies of a drug overdose every five minutes.

Three out of four overdose deaths are now linked to opioids, mostly illicit fentanyl. In Kentucky in 2021, 2,250 residents died from drug overdoses, with fentanyl identified in 1,639, or 72.8%, of the deaths, according to the state’s annual Overdose Fatality Report.

“Since India has a pharmaceutical industry expanding, we don’t want to repeat the same issue which we faced in China,” Gupta said. “Thus, monitoring of pharmaceutical companies, raiding and labelling of shipments are some of the critical steps to be taken.” 

“Indian officials understand well that the drug issue is now a global problem, and coming on-board with the U.S. will help in expanding their mission, too,” Gupta said.

In Delhi, Gupta met with several officials, including India’s director general of Narcotics Control Bureau, Satya Narayan Pradhan.

“We, here in India, are facing almost the same kind of challenge as far as narcotics is concerned,” the director of India’s agency targeting drug trafficking said. “Drug syndication needs to be curbed. Hence two democratically strong countries are trying to meet this challenge together.”

Pradhan said the Narcotics Control Bureau has raided illegal chemical manufacturers posing as legitimate pharmaceutical companies and continues to seek out illegal shipments at India’s borders.

Rahul Gupta’s visit this month to Delhi, emphasized the importance the White House places on this mission. American officials have been encouraged by the sense of urgency and commitment by Indian officials and the visibility the issue is getting because of the involvement of India’s Minister of Home Affairs Shri Amit Shah.

U.S. officials also want their Indian counterparts to take notice of the exportation of suspicious equipment. This includes rotary evaporators, which have a legitimate use in chemical labs, but can be used by criminals to make fentanyl. Other examples are dye molds and pill presses, increasingly used by Mexican cartels to make fentanyl into the shape and color of prescription pain pills, often without the dealers’ or users’ knowledge.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Gupta as the nation’s drug czar in October. He oversees an annual budget of $449 million and directs task forces across the country that unite local and state police with special agents from various federal agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dr Rahul Gupta, the first physician to serve as director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, helped shepherd through the first U.S.-India Counter Narcotics Agreement

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