Exclusive: Xylazine- Fentanyl a national emerging threat says White House Drug Czar Dr. Rahul Gupta

The White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 22, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

The White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta said a new combination of drugs, Xylazine and Fentanyl, is affecting communities in all 50 States.

In an exclusive interview with News India Times at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 22, 2023, Dr. Gupta said “Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, and Fentanyl mixture is pervasive in all 50 States and hurting communities. We are monitoring developments and trends very closely and looking at ways to unlock a number of federal plans moving forward to handle the situation, including whether to declare Xylazine as an emerging threat.”

Dr. Gupta just returned to the nation’s capital after addressing Preventive Medicine 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the topic of “State of Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in the United States,” on March 21. At the Conference, in addition to the emerging threat, he highlighted President Joe Biden’s overall strategy and commitment to improving the conditions of millions of Americans entangled in the opioid overdose crisis.

Dr. Gupta added, “I spoke about the President’s commitment to increasing access to treatment, removing barriers, and making sure that 46 million Americans, who are suffering from substance use disorder, are able to get treatment… getting Naloxone, the antidote,” in addition to expanding treatment across marginalized communities and eliminating racial inequities.

On March 13, Dr. Gupta also co-led a US delegation, and delivered the US National Statement at the 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Austria, Vienna. “We met more than a dozen countries for bilateral meetings including the European Union (EU), United Kingdom, Germany, India, Mexico among others. We also hosted a G7 plus dinner which was well received,” said Dr. Gupta. “Our message was we are seeing a new threat across the globe and the world can today be divided into three types of countries; those who have a synthetic drug problem and know about it; those who have a synthetic drug problem and don’t know about it, and those who are going to have the synthetic drug problem in the near future.”

According to Dr. Gupta synthetic drugs – like Fentanyl – affect the Americas, Ketamine and other drugs affect parts of Africa, and Captagon affects the Middle East. He noted, “They are all synthetic and deadly. They are produced very quickly in small spaces and are hard to detect,” adding “So we asked countries to join a global coalition to work against synthetic drugs and got a really good response within the EU, as well as from India, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, and Kenya…”

About meeting with the Indian delegation in Vienna, Dr. Gupta said, “We had substantive discussions as we’re coming off from the recent National Drug Demand Reduction Programmes between Indian and US. We talked about how important this issue is to both nations, as well as the importance of making sure to work proactively for diversion control, as well as providing for both countries the assistance that we need for our populations in terms of addiction and prevention.”

Emphasizing that there is great enthusiasm and willingness to work between the two countries, Dr. Gupta said, “We also talked about how this is an important issue that should be a part of both G7 and G20, and that India can work as a global leader alongside the United States,” in a cooperative spirit of protecting citizens of both countries.

Dr. Gupta was also part of a High-Level US delegation that met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his delegation to launch the Phase II of the Bicentennial Framework for Security on March 9 in Mexico. “We discussed on how to accelerate our cooperation on ensuring both addressing the supply synthesis and trafficking of lethal drugs like Fentanyl. There was a comprehensive understanding that it is in the mutual interest of Mexico to play the role of a global leader. We also discussed the issue of securing ports as that’s where a lot of these chemicals enter from China predominantly,” he said.

About the Bicentennial Framework follow-up meeting between US and Mexican delegations that will be held soon in Washington DC, Dr. Gupta said “We have already had follow up calls internally to prepare for the delegation’s visit. We are discussing how both nations can launch a public awareness campaign and robust law enforcement actions including those at ports in terms of chemicals and shipments.”

“The Mexico trip happened because we wanted to ensure more people do not die, whether in US, Mexico, Canada or anywhere else in the world. And that’s the same spirit with which you also saw President Biden travel to Canada for the North American Leaders’ Summit, January 9-10, and meet with President López Obrador, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

About the steady drop of overdose deaths in the past few months, Dr. Gupta affirmed, “We’re seeing now seven straight months of reduction or flattening of overdose deaths, and we hope and expect that trend will continue,” while attributing the decline to the expansion of telehealth services among other initiatives during the pandemic that allowed more people including marginalized communities benefit from treatments in rural areas.

“Additionally, President Biden’s signing the MAT Act into law on December 29, 2022, removed extra barriers for doctors to prescribe treatment. We are happy that unprecedented resources are going into communities to have access to Naloxone, the antidote to save lives,” Dr. Gupta added.

(Updated on March 27, 2023)



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