Washington: India and the US share a robust working relationship on addressing the major challenge posed by fentanyl drugs, a top health official in the Biden administration has said.
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid primarily used as an analgesic. Since 2018, fentanyl and its analogues have been responsible for most drug overdose deaths in the US, causing over 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 medicine that reverses opioid-related overdoses.
“India has been very enthusiastic working with the United States to address this (fentanyl problem) because it understands the significance at a global level of leadership,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position which is popularly known as Drug Czar, told PTI.
He said India is acting like a global leader when it comes to addressing the threat of synthetic drugs.
“There is a robust working relationship between the United States and India on this because it understands the significance at a global level of leadership,” said Dr Gupta, who is one of the highest-ranking Indian Americans in the Biden administration.
Referring to remarks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India is the pharmacy of the world, Gupta said the country has a large pharmaceutical and chemical industry.
“There’s a lot of work going on, including bilateral working relationships around synthetic drugs, and mental health as well as the pharmaceutical arena,” he said.
“We are very excited about that relationship. We’re looking forward to furthering our bilateral relationship and strengthening it because we know that India can and will and is playing the role of a global leader in this area,” Gupta said.
The United States and Indian governments are working to make sure that they are both looking at their scheduling regimes, he said.
“How do we schedule controlled substances? We’re working together to counteract the drug supply routes and networking, as well as prevention of 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, treatment expansion, the overlap that happens between mental health and addiction.
“There’s a lot of work, but we’re excited about the enthusiasm and the ability of both countries to partner on this very important topic,” he said.
He said the data shows that less than half of the young people 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, so much has changed: which drugs are out in the market has changed how people acquire drugs and what those drugs have changed,” he said.
As part of the campaign, he said the aim is to meet young people to tell them that they can also have the tools to save lives.
Carrying Naloxone or Narcan, which is an antidote for opioids like fentanyl, it is important for them to carry it because they could be saving the life of themselves, their friends, neighbours, or somebody at school or work, Gupta said.
“It’s really important for us to be telling young people that you are empowered and have the ability to save other people’s lives and carry naloxone with you. Because we don’t know next time who is going to be going through the poisoning,” he said.
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“We are also adding to the social media work, and messengers, digital ads that will be displayed in certain states in places like subway stations, college malls, grocery stores to make sure that we meet young people where they are and share this important message, which can often be potentially lifesaving,” he said.
“This is a challenge, prevails throughout communities, and I’ve seen this in the Indian American community, that it has taken the toll and has taken the lives of young children as well as young adults. So, it’s really important that we spread this message,” he said.
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