India and the US share a strong working relationship to tackle the huge challenge posed by fentanyl drugs, a senior Biden administration health official has said.
Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid used primarily as a pain reliever. Since 2018, fentanyl and its analogues have been responsible for the majority of drug overdose deaths in the US, causing more than 71,238 deaths in 2021.
The Biden administration launched a massive campaign on Thursday to educate young people about the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving effects of naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid-related overdoses.
“India has been very enthusiastic about working with the United States to address this (fentanyl issue) because it understands the importance of global leadership,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Post who is popularly considered to be known as the Drug Czar, he told PTI.
He said that India is acting as a world leader when it comes to tackling the threat of synthetic drugs.
“There is a strong working relationship between the United States and India on this because they understand the global importance of leadership,” said Dr. Gupta, who is one of the most senior Indian Americans in the Biden administration.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s remarks Narendra Modi India is the world’s pharmacy, Gupta said the country has a large pharmaceutical and chemical industry.
“There is a lot of work going on, including bilateral working relationships around synthetic drugs, mental health and pharmaceuticals,” he said.
“We are very excited about that relationship. We look forward to advancing our bilateral relationship and strengthening it because we know India can and wants to and is playing the role of world leader in this area,” Gupta said.
The US and Indian governments are working to make sure both are looking at their scheduling regimes, he said.
“How do we program controlled substances? We are working together to counter drug supply routes and networks, as well as preventing the diversion of these chemicals,” he said.
Gupta said the chemicals are often shipped to other countries and used in the production of these deadly drugs.
He said the two countries are also working together on issues like addiction, the expansion of treatment, the overlap that occurs between mental health and addiction.
“There is a lot of work, but we are thrilled with the enthusiasm and ability of both countries to partner on this very important issue,” he said.
He said data shows that less than half of youth in the US know or understand that fentanyl, a dangerous drug that can kill them, is in their drug supply.
“But if you look at it from a pandemic standpoint, a lot has changed: the drugs that are on the market have changed how people buy drugs, and what those drugs have changed,” he said.
As part of the campaign, he said, the goal is to meet young people to tell them that they, too, may have the tools to save lives.
It’s important to carry naloxone or narcan, which is an antidote to opioids like fentanyl, because it could save your life, your friends, neighbors or someone at school or work, Gupta said.
“It’s really important for us to tell young people that you are empowered and have the ability to save other people’s lives and take naloxone with you. Because we don’t know next time who is going to get poisoned,” she said.
“We are also adding to the work of social networks and messengers, digital ads that will be shown in certain states in places like subway stations, university malls, grocery stores to make sure we meet young people where they are and share this important message. , which can often save lives,” she said.
“This is a challenge, … it is prevalent in every community, and I have seen it in the American Indian community, which has taken a heavy toll, taking the lives of young children and young adults. So it is very important that we spread this message,” he said.