The House Energy and Commerce Committee held an explosive meeting Wednesday on the deadly epidemic of fentanyl that is pouring across the nation’s southern border.
Led by Rep. John Joyce (R-PA), the members noted that last year the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized over 379 million doses of the synthetic opioid — “enough to kill each and every American.”
U.S. House committee prepares to battle fentanyl scourge as a 'weapon of mass destruction' | Just The News https://t.co/E1zvPB0Yzu
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Joyce, who is also a physician, declared the agency confiscated over 50.6 million fentanyl pills and more than 10,000 pounds of raw fentanyl powder. Republicans on the committee agreed that the temporary Schedule I designation of fentanyl-related substances should be permanent.
There was also broad agreement that harsher criminal penalties are necessary to be a deterrent to the continued manufacture and trafficking of the deadly drug.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) summed up the beliefs of the GOP members when he said that fentanyl should be a top priority. He called it “poison” and a “weapon of mass destruction.”
Testifying before the panel were Deb and Paul Cullens. The couple lost their 22-year-old son Zachery to illicit fentanyl. Deb Cullens told the representatives that “our son did not die of an accidental overdose, he was poisoned — actually he was murdered.”
Most of the raw materials used to produce the deadly drug are sourced from China and then trafficked across the southern border with Mexico.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that fentanyl is similar to morphine, but the synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. In its prescription form, fentanyl is used to treat patients with severe pain.
The problem arises, however, when it is manufactured illegally and sold for its potent effects. Often it is added to other drugs to increase their strength, and traffickers form it to look like regular prescription medications.
The scourge is so dramatic that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now lists fentanyl as the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45.
The peak for overdose deaths in U.S. history is the 12-month period ending in March 2022. CDC provisional data showed that over 110,000 fatal overdoses occurred during the period.