Multiple U.S. states, ultimately seeing little action from the federal government on the matter, have taken it upon themselves to roll out solutions for combatting the ongoing flow of deadly fentanyl into the United States.
As reported by ABC News, two major methods have emerged from the handful of states that are directly addressing this issue: One camp seeks to reduce the risks to drug-users while also imposing steeper penalties for dealing fentanyl, while the other approach involved calling for more federal intervention, with some of these states taking it upon themselves to guard the southern border and prevent the trafficking of fentanyl into the country from Mexico.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a report revealing that, for the first time in modern history, over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the span of just one year. Roughly two-thirds of these deaths were caused by fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. Besides fentanyl itself, some drug dealers seek out similar drugs that also have synthetic properties, often mixing the base fentanyl with other drugs and hiding it inside pills so that drug users are unaware which drugs they are really taking.
“It’s a fine line to help people and try to get people clean,” said Ohio State Senator Nathan Manning (R-Ohio), “and at the same time incarcerate and get the drug dealers off the streets.” Manning is currently sponsoring legislation to legalize testing strips and other materials that are used to test drugs for fentanyl.
Thomas Stuber, chief legislative officer at the Ohio-based drug treatment organization LCADA Way, supports Manning’s legislation, which would also make it easier to obtain naloxone, a drug that has often been used to revive people who overdose on opioids.
“This is a harm-reduction approach that has received a lot of acceptance,” Stuber said in a statement. “We cannot treat somebody if they’re dead.”
A similar bill legalizing testing strips was passed by the West Virginia state legislature, and is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Jim Justice (R-W.V.).
Meanwhile, states that are located on the southern border have focused more on securing the border to stop the flow of drugs, rather than try to simply prevent future overdoses. Both Governors Greg Abbott (R-Texas) and Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) have called for assistance in securing the border, which led to several other Republican-led states sending some of their own National Guard or state troopers to help do so.
The Texas Military Department reported that from March of 2021 to March of this year, troops had confiscated over 1,200 pounds of fentanyl. During the same time period, federal authorities confiscated over 11,000 pounds.
In January, attorneys general from 16 states sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken demanding that he use greater pressure to force Mexico and China to reduce the flow of fentanyl into the country, as the former often sends materials for making the drugs to the latter, where they are subsequently created in labs before being smuggled over the border.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans of all walks of life in unprecedented numbers,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-W.V.). “And the federal government must respond with full force, across the board, using every tool available to stem the tide of death.”