America Must Do More to Fight the Fentanyl Epidemic

Op-Ed by Emily Thompson

Zarek McMeekin and Savannah Crownover, both from Texas, died tragically from suspected fentanyl poisoning. They are just two victims of the devastating and widespread epidemic in America that has taken far too many lives.

Nearly 110,000 people died last year of drug overdoses in the United States, according to preliminary federal data published earlier this year. Overdose deaths spiked 30% between 2019 and 2020 and rose another 15% between 2020 and 2021. The persistent rise in drug overdoses has had a profound impact on public health, contributing to a decline in overall life expectancy in the United States. It stands as one of the leading causes of death in the country.

Since the 1970s, the number of drug overdose deaths has climbed every year, with the exception of 2018. The sharp increases in 2020 and 2021 were driven for the most part by the major changes of fentanyl availability across America, according to a New York Times article published last May.

The drug supply in the U.S. has become increasingly dangerous with the addition of substances like fentanyl, a potent opioid, often mixed with other drugs. One such drug is xylazine, an inexpensive and addictive animal tranquilizer, which has exacerbated the risks associated with opioid use. The data reflects the urgent need for more effective strategies and interventions to address this critical public health crisis.

In Carroll County, GA, a woman was charged with trafficking fentanyl and methamphetamine. During a search of her home, deputies found approximately 1.5 kilos of suspected methamphetamine, approximately 2.5 ounces of suspected fentanyl, along with Xanax pills, MDMA pills, suspected cocaine, suspected marijuana, and two firearms.

In Green Bay, WI, Maylia Sotelo, a teenage girl whom authorities once called “the largest drug dealer of fentanyl identified in the schools in Brown County”, is facing charges related to delivering and possessing fentanyl.

But these are small-time criminals; and while their capture is positive, it is nowhere near the level of success authorities need to attain to successfully fight the drug epidemic wreaking havoc across America.

The Biden administration’s response to the fentanyl epidemic in America encompasses a comprehensive and multifaceted strategy. This approach integrates international collaboration, enhanced domestic law enforcement coordination, private sector partnerships, financial system protection, legislative initiatives, increased access to naloxone, overdose prevention investments, and bolstered border security.

Internationally, the administration is spearheading a coordinated effort with global partners to disrupt the illicit synthetic drug trade. This includes the formation of a global coalition to combat illicit synthetic drugs, focusing on preventing manufacturing, detecting threats, disrupting trafficking, and addressing the public health and safety impacts of these substances.

Domestically, the strategy involves strengthening coordination and information sharing among U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This includes tracking and targeting the tools used in fentanyl production, such as pill presses, and improving collaboration across federal programs to disrupt drug-trafficking networks.

The FBI, CIA, and other U.S. law enforcement agencies are tackling the fentanyl trafficking crisis through a collaborative and multifaceted approach. The Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has devised an intelligence-driven strategy aimed at dismantling transnational criminal organizations involved in illicit opioid trafficking, particularly fentanyl. This strategy leverages HSI’s expertise in investigating cross-border crimes and utilizes customs and financial data to prevent illicit drug shipments.

Additionally, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been instrumental in intercepting significant amounts of fentanyl, seizing drug manufacturing equipment, and making numerous arrests. This is part of a broader effort that targets both the drug itself and the materials used in its production.

To safeguard the U.S. financial system from exploitation by drug traffickers, the administration is implementing measures to obstruct these criminals’ access to financial systems and collaborating internationally on anti-money laundering and illicit finance related to drug trafficking.

Legislatively, the administration is urging Congress to address loopholes that allow traffickers to evade regulation by altering the chemical structure of fentanyl and its analogues.

In terms of public health response, the government has taken significant steps to increase the accessibility of naloxone in federal facilities, making this life-saving medication readily available in emergency situations.

For overdose prevention, substantial funding has been requested for services and support in treatment, harm reduction, and recovery. This is part of a broader strategy to address the overdose crisis comprehensively.

Significant investments in border security and law enforcement efforts have been made to combat illicit fentanyl trafficking. This includes deploying advanced technology for drug detection and seizure at ports of entry, and seeking additional funding to further strengthen border security measures.

While these efforts signify a robust and multi-pronged approach by the government and law enforcement agencies to combat the fentanyl epidemic, it is still not enough and even more must be done to tackle the complex challenge of fentanyl trafficking, involving both domestic and international coordination.

Image: Texas DSHS

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1 Comment on "America Must Do More to Fight the Fentanyl Epidemic"

  1. In case you didn’t notice, the entire drug “war” has been an abject and utter failure to stopping drugs. Wildly successful however in destroying an entire generation of young people and expanding the entire prison system.

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