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A new Act passed by the U.S. Government focuses on foreign countries that sell illicit opioids to our country. The bi-partisan “Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act” is yet another action being taken to battle the drug overdose epidemic that has seized our country in the past decade. The new legislation will limit American foreign aid to countries that don’t cooperate with the U.S. in its efforts to regulate fentanyl.

Dangers of Fentanyl Abuse 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, used to treat moderate to severe pain, such as after surgery or in patients with chronic illness. This medication is extremely effective in managing pain and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine or heroin. When abused, however, because it is so powerful, fentanyl can quickly cause addiction, overdose, and death. Symptoms of overdose include extremely slow breathing, seizures, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, headaches, and dizziness. When combined with illicit drugs like heroin, fentanyl is extremely volatile and even more deadly.

  • 29,418 Americans died from an overdose involving fentanyl in 2017, an increase of 840 percent in just five years (S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention)
  • Illegally produced fentanyl which is being mixed and used with other street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and psychostimulants like methamphetamine is now driving Ohio’s unintentional overdose deaths – 4,854 in 2017 (Ohio Department of Health)
  • In 2017, illegally produced fentanyl and related drugs like carfentanil, which are opioids, were involved in 71 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths. By comparison, fentanyl was involved in 58 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016, 38 percent in 2015, and 20 percent in 2014 (Ohio Department of Health)

Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act

The new legislation, which was passed last month, recognizes the impact countries like China have in the supply of this dangerous drug to the United States. According to the DEA, most fentanyl that is abused does not come from legitimate prescriptions that are diverted. As nicknames like China Girl, China Town, and China White would imply, the majority of fentanyl abused in the U.S. is manufactured and exported from China. The drug is distributed in the U.S. with the help of Mexican cartels who make use of their already established networks and drug routes.

To date, China has made it illegal to manufacture and sell fentanyl but has not addressed fentanyl analogs, drugs closely related to fentanyl. Other countries, including Canada and Mexico, are reportedly complying with the new legislation. According to the new Act, countries that do not comply with international agreements on narcotics control would lose access to the Export-Import Bank and other U.S. subsidized aid.

Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland spoke about the issue in a press conference last week, “As the former chief of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Narcotics Unit, and a former Assistant U.S. attorney in the narcotics unit, I know firsthand that one of the biggest challenges to law enforcement in combating these deadly drugs is addressing the source of the problem, and stopping the flow of these illicit drugs that are manufactured in clandestine labs overseas in China. We know that drug traffickers, those who directly profit from the affliction of those struggling with the disease of addiction, in an effort to increase their profit margin are diluting heroin with fentanyl, often causing instantaneous overdose and death.”

“This act will undoubtedly benefit law enforcement, allowing those who produce fentanyl, no matter where they are in this world to be prosecuted and held accountable just like the drug trafficker who peddles this poison in our community,” said Copeland.

Other Fentanyl-Related Legislation 

Other actions taken by the government to address the problem of fentanyl overdose include a recent ban in the United States of not only fentanyl but related fentanyl analogs. Earlier this year, the DEA placed all fentanyl and illicit fentanyl analogs into the Schedule I category.

“DEA is committed to using all of its tools to aggressively fight and address the opioid crisis and growing fentanyl problem plaguing the United States,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “By proactively scheduling the whole class of illicit fentanyl substances simultaneously, federal agents and prosecutors can take swift and necessary action against those bringing this poison into our communities.”

According to the DEA Press Release, anyone who possesses, imports, distributes or manufactures any illicit fentanyl analog will be subject to criminal prosecution in the same manner as for fentanyl and other controlled substances. This will make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances.

Our country faces a long road ahead, but with better awareness, education, and treatment, along with stricter laws, this deadly drug will lose its power in our communities. To learn more about treatment for opioids like Fentanyl, visit The Ridge’s Substance Abuse Program Guide.