Within the murky online corners of the so-called Dark Net, drug dealers emphasize the best way to send their goods across the United States is not via FedEx, UPS, or another private mail carrier, but through the U.S Postal Service.
Last year, up to 59,000 opioid-related deaths occurred, making those narcotics the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Many of the deaths were attributed to synthetic opioids, which have flooded the market through mail orders from China using USPS.
One exported drug, the synthetic opioid fentanyl, is widely considered one of the deadliest drugs in America. Fifty times more potent than heroin and nearly 100 times more than morphine, fentanyl is believed responsible for about 52 percent of Pennsylvania's 4,642 opioid-related deaths last year.
The drug is so powerful law enforcement and emergency personnel have been warned to be careful when coming into contact with it. But its potency is what makes fentanyl ideal for shipping. Small amounts can be easily mailed instead of the larger quantities required with less potent drugs.
Reddit, the popular digital chat forum, has become a hot spot for people looking for advice on how to access Dark Net drug markets. While avoiding scammers and law enforcement, customers can find the best dealers — alongside stories of addiction, failed recovery, and overdose deaths.
But the dealers don't always get away. The FBI arrested a southwest Philadelphia man Thursday who was considered one of the nation's biggest Dark Net fentanyl dealers. Unfortunately, the arrest of Henry Koffie, also known as "Narcoboss," will likely cause only a lull in the Dark Net drug trade.
It's too easy for the drugs to reach their ultimate destination. LegitScript, a digital consulting company conducted an experiment in which it made 29 orders of synthetic opioids to be sent to its office in the United States. None of the test deliveries were seized by authorities.
The Postal Service should follow the lead of private mail carriers handling overseas packages by electronically tracking basic information, including the sender's name, address, and contents of the package. That would provide enough information to help spot suspect mail so U.S. Customs agents wouldn't have to sift through vats of packages manually.
Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) introduced a bill last year, the STOP Act, which would set aside billions of dollars to pay for the advanced electronic equipment the Postal Service needs to flag suspect packages. That wouldn't bring mail trafficking to an end. The Postal Service says half the world's foreign countries don't provide the data that needs to be tracked. Suppressing incoming mail also might prompt some countries to block mail from the United States.
But the opioid epidemic has reached proportions in this country that demand action on a number of levels, including passage of the STOP Act. The Postal Service has been widely criticized over the years for its lackluster performance and postage costs, but blame Congress if it's not properly equipped to reduce the huge volume of narcotics being mailed into this country.