According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,500 people died of synthetic opioid overdoses in 2014, most of them related to fentanyl. The same drug has been a factor in the deaths of several celebrities, most recently rapper Mac Miller.
That's an 80% increase over the number of deaths reported in 2013.
In response to this crisis, China has agreed to reclassify fentanyl as a "controlled substance," after talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday.
According to a statement from the White House the new designation for the synthetic opioid drug means people in China who sell fentanyl to the U.S. "will be subject to China's maximum penalty under the law."
Fentanyl, an extremely powerful drug, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
The White House responded by calling the move a "wonderful humanitarian gesture, stark contrast to President Trump's August tweet that accused China of transporting the drug into the U.S.
It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
Officials in Washington believe China is the primary source of fentanyl found within U.S. borders, following a 2017 congressional report citing law enforcement and drug investigators.
Trump last year declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in the United States and brought up the issue with Xi when the two leaders met in Beijing in November 2017.