This editorial by Tim Hampton was published in White Mountain Independent on December 15, 2017. Hampton is a retired commander of the Property Crimes and Major Offender Bureau for the city of Phoenix Police Department.
Fentanyl is killing Arizonans, is Congress OK with that?
There’s a dangerous crop of drugs circulating on Arizona’s streets. Law enforcement report the seizure of counterfeit pharmaceuticals laced with deadly fentanyl.
The Tucson Police Department Crime Lab recently tested multiple seizures of pills disguised as oxycodone. But they contained a lethal cocktail of ingredients, including fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which kills with a dose smaller than a few grains of sand. Police suspect that these drugs were illegally trafficked to our state from Mexico.
With the opioid epidemic raging throughout the country and in our state, such illegally imported counterfeit pills are making this issue worse. Yet, Congress may soon pass legislation that would worsen the crisis. A recently proposed bill would allow Americans to purchase prescription drugs from foreign nations, including Mexico. By relaxing restrictions on drug importation, Congress would make it easier for criminals to import and sell dangerous medications.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, to notorious drugs like heroin. People are abusing these drugs at higher rates than ever. This summer, more than 200 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses.
State officials attribute this spike to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. A lethal fentanyl dose is just 3 milligrams. By comparison, a lethal dose of heroin is 30 milligrams.
Most tragically, drug users often don’t realize that they’re taking fentanyl. That’s because dealers combine it with heroin or, as they’re doing right now, pass it off as other opioids, or prescription drugs.
This deception, combined with fentanyl’s potency, makes the drug extremely deadly. It’s claimed the lives of 32 Maricopa County residents alone over the last two years. In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Tempe police seized 30,000 fentanyl pills designed to look like oxycodone pills.
Making matters worse, there are more dangerous strains of fentanyl emerging. Carfentanil is a third strain that officials are spotting across the country. This variety is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and is used to tranquilize elephants. These new synthentic fentanyls also are resistant to the overdose antidote naloxone.
Much of America’s fentanyl comes from China. A recent report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission found that China exports large amounts of fentanyl to countries like Canada and Mexico. These drugs are then illegally trafficked into the United States. With all the dangers already looming from illegal importation, it is unfathomable that Congress would be considering legislation that would legalize importation and flood the United States with dangerous drugs from foreign nations. A recent report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh warns that if Congress passes the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, more fentanyl could flood the Grand Canyon State.
Foreign markets are not as tightly regulated as ours. Many online pharmacies selling “Canadian” drugs, for instance, obtain the products from other countries. An FDA investigation found that roughly 85 percent of the drugs consumers thought they were buying from Canada actually originated from 27 other countries.
I was a law enforcement agent for 32 years. I’ve seen how criminal organizations can exploit weaknesses in the law to traffic narcotics. The drug importation bill would weaken America’s anti-drug defenses and endanger thousands of innocent lives — here in Arizona and throughout the nation.