President Trump is in the midst of a plan to stem opioid use, but his controversial ideas seem to be based more on the failed war on drugs model rather than science-backed drug treatment plans that are accessible for all. In fact, part of his ideas to curtail opioid use includes putting primary drug dealers to death. The death penalty for drug dealers is something that China has been enacting since the 1950’s, but is not remotely considered as a punishment in more Democratic societies.

“The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness,” Trump told his rally in Pennsylvania last week, as he related a tale of how China didn’t have a “drug problem” like the United States and called for stiffer penalties for drug dealers. What he failed to mention was that the bulk of America’s opioids come directly from China via purchases made on the dark web, while the remainder – outside of heroin – usually come in the form of legally purchased prescription medications.

Has the Death Penalty in China Stopped Drug Manufacture and Use?

In 2003, China was estimated to have four million regular drug users and one million registered drug addicts, according to Wikipedia. The “registered drug addicts” are people who have been recognized and forced into compulsory treatment since the 1950’s, when drug dealing became a crime punishable by death. According to Wikipedia, “Ten million addicts were forced into compulsory treatment, dealers were executed, and opium-producing regions were planted with new crops.”

However, the drugs have not been eradicated from production in China.

Drugs such as MDMA tablets are still prevalent in China, where they cost only US$0.06 to produce, but sell as much as $36 in the city of Shanghai.

Most of our Illegal Fentanyl Comes from China

According to research done by Congress in the US, the majority of illegal fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. comes from China. Synthetic opioids are usually sent via regular US mail, and without a lot of tracking for packages from overseas, the non-transparent nature of underground e-commerce provides cover for criminals to abuse the system. Synthetic opioids killed 19,000 Americans in 2016.

Trump’s suggestion for winning the war on opioids sets out a plan for the budget Congress has allocated for other opioid-related solutions – a recently appropriated $6 billion budget to combat the opioid epidemic. He says his plans include stiff penalties – such as the death penalty for high-intensity to drug traffickers/dealers, Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters Sunday.