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Expert: Mexican Cartels Likely Not Interested in Tramadol Distribution

5 days 5 hours 5 minutes ago Tuesday, September 10 2019 Sep 10, 2019 September 10, 2019 6:31 PM September 10, 2019 in News - Local

WESLACO – A recently foiled smuggling attempt is highlighting America’s struggle with opioid abuse.

More than 20,000 pills of Tramadol were seized at the Brownsville port of entry last month.

Tramadol is a pain reliever that can be highly addictive and is illegal to possess if synthetically produce or obtained without a prescription. 

Scott Stewart with Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, says it’s not easy to produce.

“A lot of the Tramadol that we see globally is actually produced by pharmaceutical companies in India and then diverted into illicit networks,” Stewart explained.

He says it’s a drug mostly abused in Africa. In the United States and by the border, it probably won’t catch on.

“So, I really don't think we're going to see the Mexican cartel move into Tramadol in a big way as they have fentanyl, just because the profit margins are not there,” said Stewart.

Fentanyl is a greater threat; it’s more potent and more common.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice seized 30 kilos of fentanyl in a three-day, three-state takedown.

Thirty pounds doesn’t sound like much, but it can kill 14 million people; it’s highly profitable.

“Basically smuggling one kilo of fentanyl is like smuggling 50 kilos of heroin, financially,” said Stewart.

Profit margins are not the only draw for criminal organizations.

“It doesn't have a specific growing area like opium poppies. Secondly, you also don't need a growing season. So, you can make it anywhere,” says Stewart.

They can also make the drug themselves, reducing manufacturing costs and fueling the abuse in the U.S.

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