I have written several articles on the coronavirus and on masks and healthcare issues. A series of links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address a different aspect of the virus or on healthcare issues in general.
The fentanyl crisis is killing more people than ever and plaguing communities across America – and it’s being fueled by President Biden and his failure to secure the southern border.
In 2021, nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses; 71,000 of whom died from fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. Illicit fentanyl overdose deaths among teens accounted for 77% of adolescent overdose deaths in 2021. Illicit fentanyl overdoses are now the number one cause of death among adults 18-45 – more than COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, and all other accidents.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently issued a report on the opioid crisis, including the worsening fentanyl crisis.
Here’s what you need to know:
- “Deaths involving opioids increased dramatically during the pandemic, driven by a sharp increase in fatalities involving fentanyl.”
- “A fourth wave of the crisis seems to be emerging, one characterized by the use of illegally manufactured opioids in combination with psychostimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine.”
- “In September 2021, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert about the increase in counterfeit prescription pills that contain fentanyl and methamphetamine.” This was the first public safety alert in six years.
- “Mexico is the primary source of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is made from precursor chemicals that are largely purchased from China.”
- “Fentanyl can be produced more cheaply than heroin because it is made from ingredients in a lab. In addition, the chemicals required to make fentanyl are not always regulated and can be acquired relatively easily from countries that produce chemicals and pharmaceuticals— allowing fentanyl manufacturers to adjust if the supply from a particular source is reduced.”
- “The supply of fentanyl and related substances increased because of changes in the market for those drugs. The ability to purchase such substances online (and the associated use of shipping services for distribution) has facilitated the purchase of fentanyl, related substances, and the precursor chemicals for making fentanyl, because they are relatively cheap to transport over long distances by mail and parcel delivery.”
In short, the report further reveals how fentanyl is easily and cheaply made, easily smuggled across our southern border from Mexico, and easily accessible through online platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
To protect communities across the country, House Republicans’ Commitment to America is to secure the southern border and help stop the record amount of fentanyl killing more people than ever, including children and young adults.
The HALT Fentanyl Act, led by E&C Leaders Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Bob Latta (R-OH), would make the emergency class-wide scheduling order for fentanyl-related substances permanent and give law enforcement the tools they need to keep these extremely lethal and dangerous drugs off our streets.
Because of their soft-on-crime agenda, Democrats blocked this three times on the House floor. They refuse to help address record-high overdose deaths from deadly fentanyl-related substances crossing our border.
We’re also demanding Big Tech platforms do more to crack down on illegal fentanyl sales and prevent criminals from exploiting these platforms to sell this deadly poison. They are buying counterfeit pills from drug dealers on Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram that they believe are something else but are laced with fentanyl. As the DEA’s Public Safety Alert warned, these counterfeit pills are killing children and young adults instantly.
Bottomline: Americans want a secure border and safer communities, and they want leadership that reflects these priorities, which includes keeping dangerous drugs – like fentanyl – from entering our country and poisoning our loved ones. House Republicans are committed to delivering on this promise and keeping our families safe. After a year marked by tragic death, it’s time we retake control of our communities.
Faces of the Fentanyl Crisis
“I lost my precious firstborn child Spencer Newsom on September 21, 2020 to fentanyl poisoning.”
An army of parents are calling on Congress to take action and permanently place fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. They are parents who deserve justice because they’ve lost a child. They don’t want anyone else to experience their pain.
These are their families’ stories and why we must make sure law enforcement has the tools they need to keep extremely lethal and dangerous drugs off our streets and from crossing the border.
Bridgette Norring, Mother of Devin Norring
“Devin was 19 when he was murdered by fentanyl. A Percocet that he and his ‘friend’ bought from a local drug dealer off of Snapchat contained 100% pure fentanyl. The ‘friend’ he was with when the pill was taken knew that Devin was in need of medical attention and instead of getting it, he walked out of my house after telling my youngest son, Caden, that Devin was sleeping. It was Caden who found Devin the following day. There was nothing we could do to save him. He was forever gone. We never received justice for Devin’s death. We never will since the alleged individual who murdered Devin, lost his life just a few weeks ago after consuming his own pills.”
Shannon Moss, Mother of Hayley Jean Moss
“Hayley lost her life to fentanyl poison on May 19, 2021. She made a terrible mistake that took her life. I believe you should learn from your mistakes, not die from them.”
Jaime Puerta, Father of Daniel Puerta
As reported by NBC News: “Jaime Puerta found his 16-year-old son Daniel unconscious in bed in their home in Santa Clarita, California, in April 2020. Daniel, who Jaime described as ‘very charismatic’ with lots of friends, had taken just half of what he thought was an OxyContin pill that Puerta believes his son bought through Snapchat.
“‘I called 911 and they were able to get his heartbeat back,’ said Puerta, who thinks Daniel ‘got bored and wanted to self-medicate’ during the pandemic.
“Daniel was declared brain dead at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and days later, Puerta and Daniel’s mother, Denise Johnson, made the agonizing decision to have Daniel removed from life support.
“‘He passed away peacefully with his mother in his bed stroking his beautiful blond hair while I was holding his hand,’ Puerta said.”
Amy Neville, Mother of Alexander Neville
Her son’s obituary reads, “Alexander Hastings Neville, 14 years old, died on 23 June 2020 due to an overdose of fentanyl—a drug he mistook for something else. He self-medicated due, in some part, to the fact that he did not realize how much he was loved by everyone who came into contact with him.”
Chris & Laura Didier, Parents of Zachary Didier
As reported by KCRA3: “‘Zach was just a beautiful soul. He loved life. He loved people, he loved his family,’ said Zach’s mom, Laura Didier.
“The Whitney High School senior was set to graduate in June with honors and had his sights on Stanford or UCLA.
“‘He lived the most incredible life. But we have to talk about how he died because it’s information we all have to know,’ Didier said.
“On Dec. 27, during winter break, Zach’s dad found him slumped over his desk with his head resting in his arm. He wasn’t breathing and CPR had no effect.
“‘I was utterly confused and obviously in a fog and traumatized,’ Chris Didier recalled. ‘How does this happen? What happened? He just fell asleep.’
“What was first an inexplicable tragedy has since become a cautionary tale. Zach was a victim of fentanyl poisoning.”
Lauren Newsom, Mother of Spencer Newsom
“I lost my precious firstborn child Spencer Newsom on September 21, 2020 to fentanyl poisoning from what he thought was a Xanax. He is forever 20 and my angel in heaven. We are broken from his passing.”
Background: The emergency class-wide scheduling order for fentanyl-related substances is set to expire on February 18, 2022.
These poisons can be as deadly and even more dangerous than pure fentanyl. There are deadly consequences if Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats allow this order to expire or continue to kick the can down the road with temporary extensions.
Combating the Opioid Crisis
In 1987, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched an anti-narcotics campaign aimed at educating the public about the dangers of drug use. In the 30-second ad, an egg represented a person’s brain and a hot frying pan represented drugs. The spokesman cracked the egg and poured it in the pan, causing the egg to fry.
The message was simple: “This is your brain on drugs”
“That commercial resonated with people, especially with teenagers” said Greg Nevano, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Deputy Assistant Director, Illicit Trade, Travel and Finance Division. “The more education and public service announcements we can have out there teaching kids and parents [about the dangers of drugs], the better.”
For law enforcement, the fight against narcotics continues. In 2016, nearly 30 years later, more than 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and that number continues to rise. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. According to Drug Enforcement Administration estimates, one kilogram of fentanyl can produce 1 million to 1.5 million pill dosage units.
In the Internet age, accessibility and e-commerce has made the fight to combat opioids harder than ever. The typical dealer selling deadly opioids does not fit a specific profile, which is a challenge for law enforcement. Now, a dealer can be anyone with access to the Internet. Buyers can visit Dark Net sites anonymously using special browsers and make purchases with virtual currencies like Bitcoin, making transactions difficult to trace. In contrast, people who have been addicted to heroin need to go out and find street vendors and pushers and buy from them. With opioids, users can order from their living room and never go out to the street.
“They can get their fix just by ordering it online for much cheaper and get a much more potent dosage. I think that’s what the phenomenon is today,” Nevano said. “You can search fentanyl and any other opioid, find it and order it online. It makes it very challenging because you don’t need that middle person that law enforcement would normally target. The hierarchy of the traditional cartel structure is not there.”
“Take shipping companies for example. People use them on a daily basis. You can order a package, you can track a package, you know exactly where the package is and you know when it will arrive to your home. You don’t need anyone’s assistance to do that. Now imagine doing that with a lethal substance like fentanyl where you’re able to order it and get it to your home. That’s what we’re dealing with.”— Greg Nevano, Deputy Assistant Director
Illicit Trade, Travel and Finance Division, HSI
Combating the Crisis
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, HSI seized nearly 2,400 pounds of fentanyl nationally. HSI has experienced a drastic increase in fentanyl related arrests and seizures in the last three years. As agency personnel have been working to combat this epidemic, one thing has become very clear – law enforcement can’t arrest their way out of the problem. While the investigation, disruption and dismantling of transnational criminal organizations that illicitly introduce fentanyl, heroin and other dangerous opioids into the United States are chief among HSI’s mission areas, it’s only one step. An informed public, willing partners and engaged treatment and prevention community are also vital to combating the problem.
“Law enforcement can only play a certain role in it. There has to be many other facets to help stop this crisis,” Nevano said. “There needs to be a whole of government approach.”
The epidemic has become so bad that in October 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed an order declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency.
In his order, the president directed ICE to increase the number of Border Enforcement Task Forces (BEST), a primary resource utilized to attack this crisis. In FY 2017 HSI increased its BEST teams to 58. BESTs, along with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and Special Operations Division are all key components HSI relies on to strengthen efforts related to drug trafficking. BESTs leverage the participation of more than 1,000 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agents and officers representing over 100 law enforcement agencies that target opioid smuggling on a daily basis in both the international mail and express consignment channels.
“When the president comes out with an executive order and mandates that HSI prioritizes its investigative efforts in a particular area such as opioid interdiction, we must prioritize this request,” Nevano said. “Saving just one life is a success, but we can’t just stop there. We need to aggressively continue to investigate and bring to justice those who are contributing to this epidemic.”
To do its part, HSI has established a three-pronged approach to combating opioids:
“The most ideal way is try to stop the opioids from coming to the U.S. is pushing our borders out and working with our foreign partners through our Transnational Criminal Investigative Units (TCIUs) and other law enforcement partners internationally to support enforcement operations overseas to interdict the packages before they make it in the mail stream and come into the U.S.”— Nevano
A Nationwide Epidemic
The opioid epidemic is not specific to one location, it’s everywhere. Nearly every American community has been impacted by the crisis. The primary source of these drugs is China. According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, mass quantities of fentanyl are being produced in China and brought illegally to the United States, contributing to the growing crisis in the U.S. The rise of fentanyl in the United States can be traced back to China’s large chemical and pharmaceutical industries, which manufacture vast quantities of the drug and its analogues to export to the western hemisphere with little regulatory oversight.
Because of the U.S. nexus to the border, and the mandate to enforce more than 400 federal statutes, ICE’s role in the president’s strategy starts well beyond the borders in an effort to prevent dangerous drugs and those engaged in the trafficking and distribution of contraband from reaching our shores. In order to continue the success of those initiatives and further seizures into identifying the criminal organizations responsible for the opioid crisis, HSI is streamlining its package interdiction efforts and working closely with law enforcement partners and intelligence centers.
“Stopping these drugs from coming in is one of the biggest challenges we face. It requires the solicitation and cooperation from our international partners,” Nevano said. “That’s the end goal to do more with our international partners. We are trying to develop and build relationships with China to ensure that these opioids are controlled.”
In working to combat the crisis, data allows investigators to identity the “hot spots,” which are certain areas of the country where there are higher levels of overdose deaths. That’s a sign that those areas that are afflicted with addiction.
In Ohio alone, unintentional drug-related overdoses caused the death of 4,050 residents in 2016. To address this deadly scourge, in Ohio, HSI completely shifted its investigative portfolio. In the last year, the agency tripled its focus on drug trafficking-related probes, which now account for more than 50 percent of all cases. HSI has doubled the number of special agents assigned to work these complex cases.
Because state and local officials don’t always have the funding and resources, federal partners, like HSI, are often brought in to provide operational support and subject matter expertise. By tripling HSI’s resources in a selected region, it further enhances the existing framework of law enforcement support in place. The reality is the more resources that are brought forth, the better the outcome for the communities most affected by opioids.
‘Why didn’t we see this coming?’
‘What else is next?’
‘What is the next fentanyl out there?’
Law enforcement officials face many questions when dealing with the opioid crisis. To face this epidemic now and in the future, HSI personnel have to be prepared. That preparation will require leveraging critical partnerships with state, local and federal partners to maximize its impact on the operation of transnational criminal organizations within various communities. Since October 2017, HSI has trained approximately 800 investigators around the country. During the week of March 12, HSI Detroit and ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center will provide free Dark Net and Virtual Currencies training for more than 500 law enforcement personnel in Ohio and Michigan. The training will have an emphasis on illicit payment networks and financial transactions associated with fentanyl smuggling and distribution. By the end of FY 2018, HSI anticipates to train more than 1,500 investigators.
President Recognizes Critical Role of ICE
Highlighting the major efforts the administration is dedicating to combating the opioid drugs crisis, President Donald J. Trump held a policy forum on “Opioids: The Crisis Next Door” at Manchester Community College on Monday, March 19, 2018 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The President recognized ICE agency efforts overall and specifically recognized HSI Manchester for its critical role as part of law enforcement efforts in the region along with key local, state and federal law enforcement partners in fighting the ongoing crisis.
Among those singled out for special recognition by the President included HSI Manchester Special Agents Derek Dunn and Ronald Morin for their roles in several highly-successful narcotics and human trafficking investigations in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire.
Also attending were local, state and federal law enforcement leadership engaged in the fight against the opioids crisis including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, HSI-Boston Acting Special Agent In Charge Michael Shea, HSI- Boston Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bart Cahill, and HSI Manchester Resident Agent In Charge Michael Posanka.
The Critical Risks of Fentanyl Poisoning – It’s Killing Kids
Drug prevention programs aren’t what they used to be. The main focus a generation ago was: “Say NO to drugs!” Nowadays, the threats are much more insidious, drugs are more readily available to children, and the risk of overdose is drastically higher.
There’s a growing crisis across the country, and most parents are still unaware of the dangers to their kids.
Fentanyl poisoning is killing kids — not just from ‘over there’ but in every neighborhood and school.
There are too many stories in the news featuring young people killed by fentanyl poisoning. It’s not just happening to kids who you think are ‘bad’ or ‘troubled’. It’s happening in middle schools across America.
It’s twenty times cheaper to produce than other illicit substances, it has a stronger hook to addiction, and drug dealers are lacing every drug you can imagine with the poison.
Only two salt-sized grains of fentanyl can kill someone — it’s fifty times stronger than heroin.
The DEA has reported that more than 1 in 4 pills are laced with the poison. And according to CDC data, synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) contributed to 62% of the 2020 overdose deaths.
Why Add Fentanyl To Other Drugs Like Prescription Pills?
Drugs laced with fentanyl will get you hooked quicker, making it a cheaper option. This is especially risky when people taking drugs don’t realize they might contain fentanyl as a cheap but dangerous additive.
What You Need To Know About Fentanyl:
- Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.
- Fentanyl can be prescribed for pain, and it’s also made illegally.
- Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths.
- Illegal fentanyl is sold as a powder, dropped on blotter paper-like small candies, in eye droppers or nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like real prescription opioids.
- Fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA. This is especially dangerous because people are often unaware that fentanyl has been added.
- The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases the risk of overdose, especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains it. They can underestimate the dose of opioids they are taking, resulting in an overdose.
- There is no accurate way to test for fentanyl in a drug.
- There is something that helps in the unfortunate scenario of an overdose — a drug called Naloxone. It’s a medicine that can be given to a person to reverse a fentanyl overdose. Multiple naloxone doses might be necessary because of fentanyl’s potency.
- Natural High has a free Fentanyl Toolkit parents and educators can use with kids to facilitate discussion around the critical topic of fentanyl.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug (an opioid) that is similar to morphine but is 50-100x more potent and dangerous. Typically, it’s prescribed to a patient after surgery or to someone with extreme chronic pain who develops desensitization to other opioids like morphine. Often, we aren’t aware of the name of the drug itself but are more familiar with the brand names (think: Ibuprofen powering Advil). When prescribed, fentanyl is the active drug in Actiq, Sublimaze, and Duragesic.
What are opioids?
Opioids are a type of drug occurring naturally in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made from the plant directly, and others, like fentanyl, are made synthetically by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure.
All opioids, whether natural or synthetic, work by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. The drugs block pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain.
There are several legitimate medical uses of fentanyl, particularly to treat severe pain, typically after surgeries or during cancer treatment. Typically, when prescribed by a doctor, opioids can be given as a shot, a patch that is put on the skin, or as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops. If it is used outside of a hospital, it is usually applied as a patch that will slowly release over 72 hours. It’s designed to be used in limited, controlled dosages, under the watchful eye of a physician and pharmacist. It is usually administered in a controlled environment like an intensive care unit (ICU).
Fentanyl is addictive because of its extreme potency. Someone with a prescription for fentanyl can quickly become dependent, which is observed by withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. Since addiction is so easy to occur, giving your body craving for the effects of the drug, it’s incredibly risky.
What are the side effects?
Fentanyl’s effects include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, problems breathing, and unconsciousness. Someone addicted to fentanyl who tries to stop taking it will likely experience severe withdrawal symptoms just a few hours after the drug was last taken. These symptoms include muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes, uncontrollable leg movements, and severe cravings. Any one of those symptoms are uncomfortable, making it really difficult to stop cold turkey. The most concerning side effect of all opioids is respiratory depression.
What’s the danger for me and my kids?
Some drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. Drugs laced with fentanyl will get you hooked quicker, making it a cheaper option. This is especially risky when people taking drugs don’t realize they might contain fentanyl as a cheap but dangerous additive. They might be taking stronger opioids than their bodies are used to and can be more likely to overdose.
It’s impossible to tell by sight, smell, or taste. Not even drug dealers can tell which pills are laced with the poison until it’s too late.
How are kids getting fentanyl?
According to a recent article in the New York Post, “The deadly drug has been found in vape pens on high school campuses in recent months. And officials have a growing concern that middle school, high school, and college-aged kids are being targeted as criminals make fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, Adderall, and Xanax.”
Drug dealers no longer have to stand on shady street corners. They can now connect with kids online through social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Buying drugs is as easy as posting a series of specific emojis on social media to signal your interest in a sale.
What are some signs and symptoms of fentanyl misuse in kids?
Parents should watch for strange, out-of-the-ordinary behaviors from their kids that may indicate that they are looking for an escape and might be misusing fentanyl or other substances to help them escape.
- Withdrawing from sports or other activities that they once enjoyed
- Grades getting worse
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Spending time with new, different friends
- Having noticeably less money or asking for money frequently
- Getting caught stealing
The physical symptoms of fentanyl misuse will look similar to the symptoms of misuse of other drugs and substances.
Parents should be watchful for the following red flags:
- A child who is sedated
- Cold and/or clammy skin
- Respiratory depression, or slow and ineffective breathing
- Slurred speech
- Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
- Unusual, erratic behavior
- Agitated behavior
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Exhaustion or lethargy
- Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)
If you suspect that your child is using any opioids or other substances, it would be wise to reach out to your school’s counselor, a drug counselor, mental health professional, or visit your pediatrician for a substance-use screening. Your child might be in imminent danger and need to receive treatment from a drug rehabilitation center.
If you think your kid has overdosed on fentanyl, call 911 immediately.
The fentanyl poisoning crisis is just that, and it’s getting worse every day.
Whether you’ve heard mention of the rise of deaths due to fentanyl on the news or not, it’s very unlikely your kids are aware. A recently released article details the increase in unintentional drug overdoses that has “led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, study shows.” These are staggering numbers and that’s only a 4-year period.
America’s Fentanyl Crisis Is Getting Worse
The Opioid crisis has been increasingly present in the United States for nearly 2 decades. Since 1999, more than 1 million people have lost their lives to a drug overdose. Year after year, a growing number of those overdoses have involved a Synthetic Opioid known as Fentanyl, which now accounts for nearly 90% of all Opioid-related overdoses and over 65% of all reported drug overdoses.
In the last year alone, drug overdoses have increased by over 15%, from 94,000 in 2020 to over 108,000 in 2021. Of those 108,000, over 80,000 involved Opioids and over 70,000 of those involving Opioids included Fentanyl.
With no clear signs of slowing down, America’s Fentanyl crisis is at an all-time high. Cities across the country, many of which have historically had low numbers of Opioid-related deaths, are now seeing alarming rates of overdoses. Entire states are being affected as well, with many rural states like West Virginia and Kentucky leading the nation in overdose death rates (81.4 and 49.2 per 100,000 respectively).
Fentanyl-Related Overdoses Continue To Rise In 2022
Drug overdoses have been steadily increasing for over 20 years. Since 2014, however, the number of overdoses has exploded largely due to Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic Opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than Morphine.
“These past three years we have seen an increase of contamination of other illicit drugs with Fentanyl, be it Cocaine, be Methamphetamine, and more recently, illicit prescription drugs,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This has put a bigger population of drug users at risk of overdoses, she adds. “In many instances, these may be people that take just one pill, and they get that contaminated pill and they can die.”
What is even more concerning to many experts is the potential of overdoses among younger adults, adolescents, and even children. In 2020 alone, there were 6,129 Opioid overdoses among people under the age of 24, with the overwhelming majority involving Fentanyl.
Overdoses in this age group have become so common, in fact, that for the first time they are on they are rise. A recent study found that for the first time in over a decade, the number of teens who died from overdoses rose in 2020. Experts believe that Opioid overdoses among younger individuals, especially those involving Fentanyl, are more common because the drug is often “cut” or mixed into counterfeit prescription drugs like MDMA which are popular among younger people.
Reports of “candy-colored” or “rainbow” Fentanyl have surfaced in multiple states, which appear to be marketed toward a younger, more impressionable audience. Officials at Arizona’s Nogales Port of Entry reportedly seized over 15,000 rainbow-colored Fentanyl pills, following 250,000 similar multi-colored pills that were seized at the same port just 24 hours earlier. Similar reports of colorful Fentanyl pills have been reported in Oregon, California, and Washington, D.C.
Where Is Fentanyl Coming From?
In recent years, the amount of Fentanyl-contaminated drugs entering the country has skyrocketed. Most of the Fentanyl that enters the country is made in clandestine or illegal laboratories, oftentimes under the guise of brand-name medications like Adderall and Xanax. This means that some people may consume Fentanyl without their knowledge.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), as of 2019, China remains the primary source of Fentanyl and Fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all Fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States. Other major countries of origin include Mexico and India, with even smaller amounts arriving from Canada’s black market.
From October 2021 to June 2022, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reportedly seized a total of nearly 11,000 pounds of Fentanyl from U.S. borders.
While recent polls show that most Americans believe the majority of Fentanyl is smuggled into the country by migrants, the reality is that these claims are extremely false and misleading. While it is true that many cartels will use migrants as a distraction, the overwhelming majority come through official ports of entry such as cargo ships or trucks.
“The probability [migrants] are going to carry some kind of illicit narcotic is probably close to zero,” says Victor Manjarrez, a retired CBP agent of over 20 years and director for the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas, El Paso.
“When you look at the chaos and clutter that occurs at a port of entry, just with the legitimate traffic – you know, trucks and personal vehicles – and so if you’re looking at a couple of pounds of Fentanyl hidden in that chaos – you know, if you’re the bad guy, you kind of like your odds,” he continued.
What’s Being Done To Combat The Fentanyl Crisis?
The Fentanyl crisis has progressed to such an extreme degree that immediate, meaningful action is needed.
“It’s absolutely devastating and heartbreaking that we continue to remain in this position,” says Sheila Vakharia, deputy director of research and academic engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, an addiction policy advocacy group. “We are over 20 years in this overdose crisis and there’s no sign of any kind of slowing down of deaths. If anything, things have only seemed to have gotten more dire.”
Since 2007, the United States has been working with Mexico in a program known as the Merida Initiative. The program has provided Mexico with more than $3 billion in security and counternarcotics aid, both for police and judicial reforms. While the Merida Initiative has led to the capture of some top cartel leaders, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has staunchly criticized the agreement.
In 2021, both Mexico and the U.S. announced a new agreement to improve “health and security cooperation.” In a similar partnership, the U.S. had been working with Columbia starting in 2000, where it provided the Columbian government with over $10 billion in aid up until 2016 when the agreement ended.
It’s not just international efforts that have been made to combat the Fentanyl crisis. In April, the Biden administration announced plans to address the unprecedented number of Fentanyl overdoses across the country. The plans included increasing access to harm reduction methods like Naloxone, a powerful medication that reverses overdoses. However, experts agree that this is simply not enough to solve the ongoing Fentanyl crisis. Currently, there are only 2 above-board, legal harm reduction sites in the entire country, both of which are in New York City.
While the need for more legal, safe harm reduction sites continues to grow and gain support across the country, legislation continues to fall short. On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed cities to open supervised drug injection sites as a part of a pilot program to help decrease fatal overdoses.
It’s important to note, however, that while harm reduction has been proven to reduce fatal overdoses and in some instances steer individuals toward quitting, it is not a substitution for treatment. With that said, the two can work well together when implemented correctly.
Getting Help Before It’s Too Late
Getting help for an addiction to Opioids or other illicit drugs can seem like an impossible, constant uphill battle. Along with abundantly underfunded harm reduction programs, the stigma that surrounds drug addiction can be enough to keep those who need help from seeking it out.
As the Fentanyl crisis continues to rage forward, experts warn that an increasing number of illicit drugs will be contaminated with Fentanyl, which often goes unnoticed by those who consume them. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, the time to get help is now. To get help today, contact a treatment provider who can help you start your journey toward recovery.
republicans-energycommerce.house.gov, “The Fentanyl Crisis in America is Getting Worse.”; ice.gov, “Combating the Opioid Crisis.”; naturalhigh.org, “The Risks of Fentanyl Poisoning To Teens.”; addictioncenter.com, “America’s Fentanyl Crisis Is Getting Worse.” by Zachary Pottle;
covid-19 and Healthcare Postings