US Fentanyl crisis worries Holness

September 20, 2023
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the USA.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the USA.

Jamaican authorities have heightened their surveillance activities at the island's ports to prevent the entry of synthetic drugs into the island.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, speaking at the 37th International Drug Enforcement Conference in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday, said two shipments of methamphetamine that originated from the USA and the Netherlands have been seized at the ports this year. He said there were four such seizures in 2022.

"While synthetic drugs are not the dominant modality in Jamaica, we are paying special attention to this," said Holness.

The prime minister noted the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs such as molly and ecstasy have risen significantly in recent times. He argued that the drugs are often manufactured in clandestine labs, making them more challenging to detect and eliminate.

"We know that trends in the United States oftentimes become global trends," Holness said, as he expressed the concern that Jamaicans could follow the Fentanyl craze.

"In Jamaica, we say if the United States sneezes we catch a cold, so we are paying very close attention to this development of the expansion of Fentanyl and other synthetic drugs in the United States. It could easily make its way to Jamaica," Holness said.

The Associated Press reported last week that Fentanyl overdoses are killing roughly 110 Californians each week. NBC News reported that overdose deaths in the USA surpassed 100,000 for the first time in 2021, fuelled by the rise of synthetic opioids, which accounted for 75 per cent of those deaths.

However, Geoffrey Walcott, one of Jamaica's leading psychologists, when contacted for comment, urged the Government not to lose sight of the dominant sub-cultures as it pertains to drug use in Jamaica. He said alcohol, nicotine and cannabis remain the main substances of choice and have continuous negative impact on the society.

"The major drug of concern remains alcohol, which causes mortality on our roads and has strong correlation with domestic violence," Walcott told THE STAR.

He added: "While it is always prudent to be aware of developing trends, we must be cautious in not overshadowing the elephant in the room, and we must allocate resources accordingly. We have seen increase in alcohol usage since the pandemic and the trend has not significantly changed. We have also seen escalation in the associated effects such as increase suicide, domestic violence and violent crimes in general."

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