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Potential For Fentanyl Production Growth A Concern At Southcom Opioid Summit

James Walsh (center), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, meetig with Miami-Dade police this week.

The U.S. military’s Southern Command, or Southcom, hosted a summit of experts in Miami Thursday on America’s growing opioid crisis. Among them was Jim Walsh, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics.

Walsh told WLRN one of his big concerns is the growing potential for increased production of fentanyl – widely considered the most addictive and dangerous opioid. Walsh said in the past China has been the sole source of fentanyl. But there are signs it’s now being produced in this hemisphere:

“What we are starting to discover is precursor chemicals to make fentanyl being produced in Mexico or other places. We don’t have the facts yet on that. But they have this capability that we know. And there were reports of a small lab that we seized in Mexico back in November, and they were producing fentanyl. It’s the first sign that we’ve got to start watching this space.”

Between 2014 and 2016, fentanyl overdose deaths rose 300 percent in both Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.