There is a dangerous epidemic taking place behind closed doors in American homes. The war against opioid abuse is still raging and has taken shape in new ways.
The so-called “pill mills” that led to the widespread availability of prescription opioids are blamed for causing America’s opioid crisis, but recent data shows that there is more to the story than is being told. Overdoses caused by prescription opioids are leveling off and starting to decline, while deaths from illegal synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are skyrocketing.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that the Drug Enforcement Agency reports can be 50 times as potent as heroin. In fact, even the smallest amount of fentanyl — about 2 milligrams, which is the size of 4 grains of salt — is deadly. Its chemical cousin, carfentanil, is even more lethal — just a single grain can kill.
As new regulations are put in place to prevent prescription abuse, such as mandatory waiting periods for prescription opioids in 31 out of 50 states, people looking for a quick fix have turned to the streets. Mexican drug cartels and Chinese drug smugglers are utilizing the changes to government policy and private sector self-policing that have led to declines in prescription drugs to their advantage, by flooding the market with the incredibly dangerous and inexpensive synthetic opioids.
These foreign actors are manufacturing counterfeit pills with dangerous combinations of heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl or its analogs, designing them to look like legitimate prescriptions and selling them on our streets. The lacing of drugs with fentanyl has created a sharp increase of opioid overdoses, because unsuspecting people who think they are buying pills such as Oxycodone and Xanax are unknowingly taking the lethal drug.
Fentanyl is also being used to lace other drugs such as cocaine, heroin and even marijuana. Lacing drugs with fentanyl is lucrative for smugglers and dealers because the stronger “high” keeps more customers coming back — if they haven’t already overdosed. The sad fact of the matter is dangerous drugs are disguised as common drugs in order to get people hooked.
Each day there are new headlines about overdoses from fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs across the country. Last year in Mississippi for instance, narcotics detectives seized blue pills stamped with “A215” to indicate Oxycodone. Following an analysis at the DEA Laboratory it was found that they actually contained fentanyl and there was no actual Oxycodone present in the pills.
More recently, and a little closer to home, 73,000 pills of fentanyl recently confiscated during a June drug bust here in Arizona were said to look identical to pills found in pharmacies.
These are but two examples of the epidemic that is claiming the lives of our neighbors, families and friends. The fatality rate from synthetic opioid related overdoses increased by 46.6 percent from 2016 to 2017 alone and that same year a record-breaking 72,300 people died from a drug overdose.
It is time to put the nation on notice and stop these needless deaths. But in order to fix this problem, we need to crack down on the criminal smugglers, primarily from Mexico and China, who are trafficking these drugs in our country. Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel is a driving force in the surge in fentanyl crossing the border. Chinese fentanyl manufacturers meanwhile, create most of the fentanyl that is smuggled from Mexico and into the United States.
Bipartisan cooperation will be necessary to end the opioid crisis. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have reached a consensus on the importance of increased support for the border security measures necessary to stop the cascade of these harmful drugs into our nation’s economy.
Congress is rightfully pushing for increased staffing and improved technology at legal ports of entry to stop the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. and providing law enforcement with more resources for illicit drug detection.
President Trump, meanwhile, has tackled the issue head-on, pronouncing a nationwide public health emergency during his first year in office.
Additionally, he has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding the influx of opioids and has secured commitments to have tighter controls placed upon the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl in the Communist country.
There is a far-reaching opioid problem that is ravaging the nation and will not go away on its own. Chinese fentanyl smugglers and Mexican drug cartels must be held responsible in order to safeguard Americans from these deadly, illicit drugs crossing our borders.
Lawmakers have a duty to protect our nation’s health and safety by enforcing preventative measures and taking aggressive action against illicit fentanyl.
Drug smuggling must be stopped today before we lose any more innocent lives to this senseless tragedy.
Lori Klein Corbin represents Arizona as the Republican National Committeewoman and is a former State Senator.
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