A congressional report revealed that many illegal shipments of fentanyl, a powerful and dangerous opioid drug, slip undetected as they arrive via the United State Postal Service. Most of the drug dealers selling this drug do so right under the nose of regulators via China. Congress says that the U.S. Postal Service must take measures to prevent the scores of pills from getting into the hands of drug users and dealers in the US.

The probe, headed up by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, shows that there is easy access for almost anyone to purchase fentanyl directly from China. Often, fentanyl and other addictive drugs are sold in bulk on the dark web, as well.

The Investigation Itself

The Staff of the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee focused their efforts on six “very responsive” providers in China, which stood out from the hundreds they found offering fentanyl for sale. The result of the investigation was the identification of 500 online transactions involving fentanyl. The deals that the Senate investigators were able to track were linked to seven overdose deaths over the course of the investigation, and the street value of the drugs was about $766 million on the illicit market.

Postal Service Needs Widespread Detection Equipment

The report also criticizes the U.S. Postal Service for failing to deploy a comprehensive system to capture advanced electronic data (AED) about packages destined for American ports. This process would flag suspicious packages, and then suspicious mail to be turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. There is equipment to do this, but it’s just not available as a comprehensive detection system.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a statement explaining that it is “working aggressively with law enforcement and key trading partners to stem the flow of illegal drugs entering the United States.”

China says it doesn’t have the resources to regulate their pharmaceutical companies, so it’s often up to the US to prevent the drugs from entering our country. Fentanyl use and overdoses have been rising dramatically over the past few years, with more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. The US authorities are wrestling to prevent opioid deaths through education, treatment, prevention, and prosecution.