By Mecca Fowler
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
Fentanyl is now the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. The drug has fueled the opioid epidemic currently raging throughout the United States. Fentanyl is an opioid that is at least 50 times more powerful and lethal than morphine. Although it can be used safely when adequately prescribed by a doctor, the misuse and abuse of the substance have been prevalent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths claimed the lives of more than 69,000 Americans in 2020 alone, increasing to over 80,000 in 2021. 70% of those deaths had fentanyl and/or other synthetic opioids in their systems. The abuse of the drug and subsequent overdoses can be attributed to several factors that are all exacerbating and fueling the epidemic.
Firstly, overdoses surged during the COVID-19 lockdown. The CDC states that the most recent statistics indicate an escalation of drug deaths during the pandemic, even though overdose deaths were already rising in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic. This instance was the most overdose deaths ever recorded within a one-year span.
“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”
Secondly, because fentanyl is inexpensive to produce and consume, it is more readily accessible. Mexican drug gangs can produce fentanyl in high volumes in laboratories and bring the drugs across the southern border. The majority of the chemicals used are imported from China. Prior to China’s crackdown, the country was the world’s leading producer of fentanyl. Unlike other addictive substances such as heroin, fentanyl is simpler to produce because it does not need to cultivate crops or harvest them for production. Heroin, for example, requires poppies to produce opium for the drug.
Therefore, dealers generating illegal narcotics utilize fentanyl to increase the potency of their products and to decrease the cost of production.
“Synthetic opioids offer economic and tactical advantages that allow criminals to vastly outpace enforcement efforts,” a recent bipartisan report by the Rand Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center said.
Next, the relaxed attitude towards the illegal crossings at the Southern border by the Biden administration has allowed drugs to enter the country. Mexico is now the leading source of fentanyl in the country. Approximately 10,500 pounds of the drug were seized at the southern border last year. Just last month, Arizona law enforcement seized more than 500,000 fentanyl pills at their southern border shared with Mexico within two days.
In September of last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued its first public safety alert in six years about the alarming uptick in fake prescription pills and other drugs containing fentanyl and meth coming from Mexico.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “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.”
Earlier this year, Texas governor Greg Abbott said that the state’s law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl to kill 222 million people. Of course, law enforcement agencies around the country have been exposed for overexaggerating the deadliness of fentanyl, so those numbers may be not completely accurate. Still, the drug has been decimating communities.
In a recent statement, Abbott said, “Fentanyl is killing innocent Texans, with well over a thousand lives lost from communities across our state due to the pervasiveness of deadly synthetic opioids. This clandestine killer is produced and distributed by Mexican drug cartels, which cunningly disguise fentanyl to look like legitimate prescription medications, and even candy to appeal to children. Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug our nation has ever encountered, and it’s a byproduct of President Biden’s open border policies. Texas is taking action by seizing enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in America, but we must all do our part to combat this deadly scourge.”
Because of all these factors listed, this deadly epidemic has catapulted out of control and is still raging today. Arresting perpetrators and seizing fentanyl has not stopped vast networks of criminals from simply relocating and setting up shop again to continue doing the same thing. There must be a smarter, more efficient approach that lawmakers and politicians can do to combat and overcome this crisis.
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