War On Fentanyl War On Fentanyl
The rapidly evolving opioid epidemic so far has outrun extraordinary efforts to get it under control. Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report demonstrating that the epidemic has entered its “third wave.” The first wave was widespread addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. The second wave was the movement of many of those addicts to heroin. Now, the third wave may be summarized in a single word: fentanyl. The synthetic opioid is exponentially more potent than even morphine. According to the CDC, fatal fentanyl overdoses increased from 0.5 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 5.89 per 100,000 in 2016 — fewer than 1,700 in 2011 and more than 18,000 five years later. The situation calls for an all-out war on fentanyl at every step of its production and distribution chain. Sen. Pat Toomey has introduced a sound bill to deny foreign aid to any country that does not cooperate in stopping fentanyl production within their borders. Congress should pass it and the administration aggressively should enforce it. And, given fentanyl’s potency, its distribution should carry a special charge beyond mere drug delivery, akin to attempted homicide. Public health experts believe that the fentanyl surge will cause increased overdose deaths through 2025. Policymakers must act now to at least diminish the carnage.