The opioid crisis is nothing new to Pennsylvania. Philadelphia County and Pittsburgh County have the highest rates of Drug Use Disorders, but Montgomery County and Delaware County follow closely behind with the next highest rates in the state.
The two most commonly prescribed Opioid Controlled Prescription Drugs in Pennsylvania are oxycodone and hydrocodone. While those are most commonly prescribed, heroin and fentanyl pervade many communities, impacting more than 97 percent of counties in Pennsylvania. While the Main Line can seem far from the rampant drug use and violence in Philadelphia, Montgomery County and Delaware County are not immune to the opioid crisis.
Earlier this month, federal officials announced the conclusion of an extensive investigation into an online-based, drug trafficking operation in Montgomery County. Three Chinese nationals worked with a former Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy to run the drug ring.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the three suspects mailed drugs directly from China to former Deputy David Landis, a resident of East Norriton, who would then use the US Postal Service to mail the drugs to customers around the United States. The drugs from China were sold both from and in Montgomery County, but reports indicate that customers in Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee all died from overdoses of fentanyl sold by this specific group.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Along with heroin, it is one of the key drivers of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state, leading to numerous overdose deaths. The heroin threat to Pennsylvania has been worsened by the unparalleled production of illegally produced fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances.
The sales from the three suspects and Landis were made over an eleven-month period in 2016 and 2017, during which roughly 2,900 packages of fentanyl and other substances were shipped to customers in Pennsylvania and around the United States.
US Attorney William McSwain suggests the three individuals arrested were suggestive of a larger drug ring within China.
This specific case highlights China’s role, as well as other countries involved with the production of drugs, in fueling the opioid crisis in America.