Fentanyl: An American poisoning

By Todd Davis 

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Most Americans didn’t know fentanyl existed a few years ago. An increasing number are now becoming aware as fentanyl-related overdose deaths skyrocket, leading some to describe this as an epidemic. What is happening isn’t an epidemic, it is a mass poisoning of Americans the likes of which has never been seen before.  

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid like heroin. Public awareness of the dangers and proliferation of fentanyl have been criminally under-reported by the Biden administration. Fentanyl kills more people aged 18-45 than COVID, suicide, car accidents, or gun violence. It is the leading cause of death among this demographic. Overdose deaths from Fentanyl are trending upward at an unbelievable rate. In 2012, there were 2,628 deaths. In 2021, the number rose to 41,587. Fentanyl deaths in 2020-21 were 78,795. 175 people die in America from fentanyl overdoses every day in America.  

The increasing wave of fentanyl deaths affects every level of American society across all socio-economic lines. However, it is hitting people of color and young Americans the hardest. These groups are routinely singled out by Democratic politicians as those most affected by unjust social policy, yet they seem silent on this matter. 

White Americans are dying more from fentanyl overdoses because of population density, but Black Americans are more likely to die from fentanyl poisoning than any other racial demographic. The per capita rate of fentanyl deaths per 100,000 Black people is 26.6 compared to 19.2 for whites. 

Also, while fentanyl fatalities have doubled in two years among the overall population, they have tripled for indigenous and multiracial Americans. Since 2015, fentanyl deaths in the Black and Indigenous communities have increased 13x. Teen fentanyl deaths have tripled since 2019. Among Black teens, it has gone up fivefold.  

These numbers clearly indicate we are in a crisis. Why is this not front-page news and a constant talking point among the media? Compare the sweeping devastation that fentanyl is causing to the reaction given toward monkeypox.  

Monkeypox, also an uncommon term that needed a definition in every article addressing it, was all the rage this past summer. The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern in late July 2022. At that time, the Centers for Disease Control reported over 6000 cases in the United States. Globally, there were 14,000 cases. Monkeypox was the cause of five fatalities.  

MIT Medical stated, “Though monkeypox is rarely fatal, it can be extremely painful and uncomfortable.” Almost every American has heard of monkeypox with likely a good number at some time or another believing that it was an imminent threat. Most Americans remain unaware of the fentanyl crisis unless it has directly affected them, a friend, or a family member. Fentanyl overdoses are causing tens of thousands of deaths. Monkeypox can make a handful of people extremely uncomfortable. Why is there such a discrepancy in the reporting? 

Monkeypox primarily was found among gay men, or as the media came to describe it, men who have sex with other men. Members of the gay community rank high on the liberal victim pyramid that determines who gets preferential media coverage. Still, that cannot explain the general lack of awareness about our fentanyl tragedy since we have already seen the vulnerable communities the Democrats (and therefore the media) pay the most lip service to are being disproportionately harmed. This should be a high-priority Democrat talking point. But it isn’t. 

Part of the reason could be the tricky politics surrounding fentanyl. People aren’t willfully snorting, shooting, or ingesting fentanyl. The reality is far more tragic. America has a contaminated illegal drug supply. Fentanyl, most often found in powder form, is laced into heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, pills, and allegedly even into marijuana.  

Fentanyl is extremely cheap to make, so there is a larger profit margin when drug cartels and dealers lace their product with the substance. Further, because Fentanyl is so powerful, up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, it produces a greater high pushing the consumer to come back for more. 

A teen in Cleveland might think they are taking Adderall but in reality, it was fentanyl pressed into the pill. They could unwittingly overdose or become addicted without ever knowing they had been introduced to the drug. 

Fentanyl in pill form is the most lethal to teens and young adults for this reason. In 2021 alone, the DEA seized ten million counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Total seizures of illegally imported fentanyl amounted to 11,000 pounds, approximately 2.5 billion lethal doses. Considering how easy it is to transport and distribute pills, the number slipping through drug enforcement nets must be staggering. 

The DEA issued its first public safety alert in six years on September 27th, 2021. The alert warned Americans that there was an unprecedented surge of counterfeit pills being distributed by organized criminal networks. Anne Milgram, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated; “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. DEA is focusing resources on taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans. Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.” 

When 40% of black market pills contain a potentially lethal overdose of fentanyl, the scope of this poisoning becomes clear. Fentanyl potency is difficult to control during the manufacturing and processing stages, so every pill could have a different dosage. This makes it impossible for a user to regulate how much they can take, if they even know they’re taking fentanyl. 

Everyone should be aware of this contamination in the non-prescription pill market. The US government should be running PSA ads and a focused national advertising campaign. And yet, articles like this are still required to lay out what fentanyl even is. 

Teens and young adults are the most susceptible to pill-laced fentanyl poisoning. Drugs like heroin and methamphetamine still carry a social stigma and those like cocaine are too expensive for this demographic. Alcohol, with modern identification requirements being hard to fake, has fallen out of favor among underage Americans over the last two decades. Pills have had the opposite result. 

Introducing fentanyl into the primary form of getting high for teens has produced lethal results. Last year, fentanyl was responsible for a staggering one-fifth of deaths among the 15-24 age group. For teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, the opioid death rate increased more than fourfold from 2018 to 2021. For 20- to 24-year-olds, the rate soared to nearly seven times. Experts say that overall drug use among these demographics has remained stable. Fentanyl is causing these mass deaths, not increased drug use. 

In one scholarly study documenting the spread of fentanyl across America, it played out like an opioid version of the Oregon Trail. The researchers concluded that, “If public health officials do not react strongly and quickly, a significant exacerbation of the U.S. opioid epidemic could follow. Similar vigilance is warranted in other regions where spread of a deadly synthetic opioid is not a foregone conclusion. Lessons learned in this large country with major state-to-state variations in demographics, political, and historical drug-use trends may be particularly relevant in the urgent effort to prevent the opioid overdose crisis from being exported around the world.” 

Here is where politics enters the equation. America, and the Biden Administration in particular, is not doing what is required to combat this poisoning. Fentanyl comes into the United States from the southern border. Both independent experts and the Department of Homeland Security say the majority of fentanyl is coming into the country from Mexico. Biden isn’t doing enough to stop drug cartels from shipping fentanyl to distribution centers in America. 

Republicans recently ran a campaign ad in West Virginia stating more fentanyl crossed the border into the United States in July and August under Biden than in all of 2019 under President Trump. That claim was verified as mostly true by media fact-checkers. 

Political campaign ads and rhetoric have drawn some attention to the fentanyl crisis but more must be done. Aggressive action needs to be taken by the government. 

First, it should be acknowledged that fentanyl is a mass poisoning, not a drug epidemic. Second, this nationwide poisoning should be declared a national emergency. These measures will allow the federal government to take the additional steps needed with enhanced resources to combat the crisis. Families Against Fentanyl (FAF) is trying to get illegal fentanyl labeled as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. If so designated, this would give the United States abilities to strike at the source of fentanyl production and distribution. 

At first, that might appear to be an overreaction, but consider how we would react if 5000 Americans were poisoned by a chemical agent in downtown Detroit. Now consider that we’ve had over 70,000 Americans poisoned in the last two years from fentanyl.  

We cannot turn a blind eye to fentanyl delivery into the United States. This is a clear and present danger to the United States and must be dealt with aggressively before an entire generation is forever scarred by fentanyl poisoning. The government and we citizens must not stand by and allow that to happen. 

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Todd Davis

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