The synthetic drug trend has been the culprit behind hundreds of hospital visits across the U.S., leading drug users to play roulette with their health. The Chinese online drug market has made it incredibly easy for addicts to get ahold of these substances, providing an open online drug market that has become a major player in the international supply chain of synthetic drugs.
According to one popular chemical trading site GuideChem.com, there are over 150 Chinese companies that sell alpha-PVP, which is also known as “flakka,” a dangerous drug that has contributed to 18 deaths in Florida alone. This drug falls into the same chemical family as bath salts, which are banned in China but can be readily purchased online for about $1,400 a pound. This is just one of many websites that make up the vast and accessible online drug market in China.
China has claimed to have made thousands of arrests and cooperated with foreign law enforcement agencies, but officials from many countries say that Chinese authorities have shown little concern for fighting what others consider to be a huge force in the international drug problem. Jorge Guajardo, former Mexican Ambassador to China says, “They just didn’t see what was in it for them to look into their own industries exporting these chemicals.”
China’s drug traffickers and chemical manufacturing facilities have taken advantage of this open market, turning the country into the leading exporter and producer of synthetic drugs. Recent incidents within the last few years have revealed China to be the main supplier of methamphetamines and other compounds that are commonly used to manufacture the drug. Just last year, over nine tons of meth were found by authorities in the small village of Boshe. In total, the batch was worth $230 million. In 2012, Belize authorities intercepted a single shipment originating from China that was worth approximately $10 billion. These are just a few of many incidents where large quantities of methamphetamines originating from China have been intercepted by authorities. Seeing these figures alone, it comes as no surprise that the majority of the world’s meth originates from China.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, China is currently the primary source of the methamphetamine ingredients used by drug traffickers in Mexico, who produce 90 percent of meth used in the United States. Governments across the world have increased regulation on many of the precursor chemicals for manufacturing meth, so Mexican cartels have turned to Chinese chemical facilities.
Synthetic drug manufacturers in China have been able to manufacture in abundance due to the country’s large and loosely monitored chemical industry. The lack of regulatory practices has made it easy for crime syndicates to divert chemicals with legitimate uses, such as fertilizer, pesticides and medicine, toward the production of designer drugs. Some of the labs where these chemicals are manufactured manage to stay ahead of laws that ban illicit synthetic drugs by simply tweaking the chemical makeup of a drug, creating a new drug that hasn’t been banned yet.
Some of these synthetic drugs are sold online as “research chemicals” and are specifically designed to take advantage of outdated legal frameworks. The United States has banned large classes of substances that mimic the effects of illegal street drugs, but other countries do not regulate these substances. Soren Pedersen, a spokesman for the European police agency Europol said, “As soon as a substance becomes illegal in Germany, they can just divert it to Denmark, Sweden or Austria…Drug traffickers take advantage of this.”
For over a decade, a 39 year old Shanghai chemist Zhang Lei, who also goes by the name Eric Chang, has manufactured tons of synthetic drugs for buyers throughout 57 countries. He has earned roughly $30 million alone just from shipments to the United States. He was notorious in Great Britain for manufacturing rave drugs.
To stay one step ahead of international laws that ban synthetic drugs, Zhang and his company, China Enriching Company, are constantly developing new variations of common synthetic drugs to export across the world. The Chinese police finally arrested Zhang in 2013 on charges for manufacturing ecstasy. The United States Treasury Department sanctioned Zhang last July along with his company and three of his associates. Despite all of this, his company is still running and provides users with a platform where they can purchase “research chemicals” and are promised a refund if any of their shipments are seized by authorities.
The Chinese online drug market has created a way for drug users to obtain dangerous mind-altering substances as easily as they could purchase a book on Amazon. This ever-changing and elusive drug market has created more problems not just for China, but several other countries where drug users are seeking alternative means for obtaining and manufacturing illegal drugs.
The new line of designer drugs pose a threat to addicts because their chemical makeup is constantly being changed and pose unknown health risks to users. For those struggling with addictions to harmful substances, treatment can serve as an effective means of recovering.
Sovereign Health Group is among the premier and well-renowned drug addiction treatment providers in the country. If you know someone who is struggling with drug addiction and is in need of addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to call. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer