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Mullin' It Over Column

Fighting the Scourge of Fentanyl

The opioid crisis is one of the biggest health challenges facing America. In one year, from April 2020 to April 2021, we saw a record high of over 100,000 overdose deaths. And the latest data shows synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, have contributed to 60 percent of this increase.

 

Given those statistics, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has issued its first public safety alert in six years, warning the public about fake pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl. And more alarming, our border patrol agents have seized enough fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances to kill every American seven times over. Every community in the country is affected by this crisis and Congress must take a hands-on approach to combat it.

 

Fentanyl is a controlled substance. However, illicit fentanyl production is the primary driver of the record-breaking numbers we are seeing. Fentanyl abuse has become more prevalent and more dangerous in recent years due to “fentanyl analogues” and “fentanyl-related substances” (FRS), which are similar in chemical makeup but far more powerful.

 

Fentanyl and its analogues are easier to produce and quicker to make than other drugs. They are also twenty times more profitable. For these reasons, criminal drug cartels are flooding our border with counterfeit pills. The DEA reports that more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized this year, which is more than the last two years combined. Two out of every five pills seized contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

 

I can’t state enough the danger this crisis poses to every single American but based on the numbers alone, I shouldn’t have to.

 

Over the past year, southeast Oklahoma has seen an increase in the availability of tablets containing fentanyl that are being sold as counterfeit Oxycodone. Federal law enforcement recently seized approximately 10,000 fentanyl-laced tablets shipped into the same area as well. In 2020, Oklahoma lost 136 of our own to overdose deaths due to fentanyl – a nearly 152 percent increase from the previous year.

 

Fentanyl-related substances are only temporarily categorized as a Schedule I substance right now. Schedule I is reserved for drugs that are deemed as having no accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse, and a lack of accepted safety. I joined my Energy and Commerce Committee Republican colleagues in pushing to make this scheduling order permanent. The temporary deadline expires February 18, 2022, and we cannot allow this to expire. We must act to ensure our law enforcement officials have the tools they need to protect their communities from this dangerous substance.

 

Th opioid crisis is blind to age, race, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. We are still learning the toll the pandemic took on many as the overdose numbers come to light. President Biden must address the crisis at the southern border to stop the scourge of fentanyl being brought into our country, and Congress needs to act fast. Too many lives have already been cut short.

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