“Cause of death: fentanyl overdose.” That has become all too common reading in today’s news articles hitting everyone from impoverished urban communities to highly-educated and highly-paid Harvard MBAs at Credit Suisse, according to The New York Times. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, appears in all kinds of drugs, from methamphetamine to cocaine, and even in small doses, it is fatal. The DEA considers as little as 2 milligrams of the substance potentially fatal, and its strength has shattered families across the country.
The CDC finds fentanyl fifty times more powerful than heroin, explaining the heart-breaking death rate behind it. In February of 2022, Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy’s office noted, “Fentanyl is killing more young Americans than COVID-19.” The problem is that fentanyl continues to pour into our communities, despite the best efforts of law enforcement agencies. The congressman’s office also noted, “…while fentanyl seizures are up, the price of fentanyl on the street has dropped 50 percent.” The cheaper the synthetic opioid gets, the greater havoc it will continue to wreak.
In response, many have called for the wide availability and accessibility of Narcan, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. As a result, places like the Ozarks Medical Center in Missouri are making the life-saving product available in as straightforward a purchasing location as a vending machine. While there have been reports of “Narcan-resistant” forms of fentanyl circling communities, experts, according to Fox 9 KMSP, assert no such form of fentanyl exists and that some are mistaking other drugs that are not opioids, which is what Narcan is meant for, as a “Narcan-resistant” form of fentanyl.
Regarding criminal law, there is some debate as to how to take on the threat of fentanyl. In Virginia, Republican lawmakers urged the passage of a bill intensifying fentanyl-related criminal penalties. Some Democrats in the state fear there may be an unintended impact on drug addicts who could be severely charged for accidentally sharing fentanyl with other addicts.
The fentanyl problem shows no sign of going away. With its potency and fatality rates, it poses a serious threat. Cognisant of the danger it poses to American lives, many are taking steps, like those working to increase Narcan accessibility. And while there have been rumors of a “Narcan-resistant” form of fentanyl, experts caution against this misinformation. On the legal side, in states like Virginia, there is no consensus on how to tackle the issue. While the future of fentanyl in America is uncertain, certainly, it will not be going away anytime soon.