November 17, 2020
By: Michael Lohmuller Nicole Cook Logan Pauley
Download PDF
The Bottom Line Up Front

To conduct a more systematic analysis of companies potentially involved in fentanyl and synthetic drug manufacturing, and to understand the geographic distribution of illegal drug production in China, we developed the Synthetic Drug Supplier Database.

Executive Summary #

The illicit synthetic drug networks that fuel the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States continue to evolve and adapt to changing incentives and pressures, finding innovative ways to exploit technology and increased global interconnectivity. The digital age, in particular, has had a transformative role in allowing synthetic drug networks to take root. Fentanyl networks are among the world’s first digital native drug networks. Global internet connectivity has opened a new era of drug distribution by facilitating direct-to-consumer transactions, rapid reaction to enforcement trends, and the delivery of retail, rather than wholesale, drug volumes through licit commercial delivery services.

C4ADS investigated these drug supply chains, conducting extensive multilingual analysis of Chinese corporate entities, the clear web, and social media, in order to better understand the methods by which they operate.

Read the NPR exclusive.