Fentanyl is ‘single greatest challenge US faces,’ says Department of Homeland Security Secretary
Fentanyl is ‘single greatest challenge US faces as a country’, says Department of Homeland Security Secretary — with drug wiping out 75,000 Americans a year
Fentanyl is the ‘single greatest challenge the US faces as a country’, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary has said.
Alejandro Mayorkas made the comment during a Senate hearing Wednesday, in what is thought to be the first time any member of Biden’s Cabinet has described the lethal synthetic opioid in such stark terms.
Mr Mayorkas pointed to the deaths of more than 70,000 Americans in 2022 due to fentanyl overdoses.
The drug, which is flooding into the US from Mexico and China, has become the leading cause of death for those aged 18 to 49 in the US, figures suggest, surpassing guns and car accidents.
Deaths caused by fentanyl in the US surged in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died of a fentanyl overdose. This figure shot up to 19,413 by 2016. Covid made the situation worse, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said fentanyl is the ‘single greatest challenge the US faces as a country’ during a Senate hearing on Wednesday
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman Sen Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told Mr Mayorkas he wanted the fentanyl crisis to be the department’s top priority for 2024.
Sen Murphy said: ‘This budget better do everything humanly possible to stop the import of deadly fentanyl into the United States.’
According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of fentanyl goes into the US through legal ports of entry, in vehicles
The potent synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used by doctors for patients in serious pain or with terminal illnesses.
It is cheap, highly addictive, relatively easy to smuggle into the US, and cost effective for dealers to mix it into their supplies, which saves them money and can extend or boost the high experienced by users.
Fentanyl sells for less than $5 a tablet on American streets.
But many users do not even know they’re ingesting fentanyl when they buy their drugs. It’s now found in everything from cocaine to molly and street benzodiazepines like Xanax.
The Homeland Security department includes Customs and Border Protection, the body tasked with stopping illegal fentanyl and other narcotics from coming into America.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of fentanyl goes into the US through legal ports of entry, in vehicles.
Nobody knows how much fentanyl in both gel and pill form is successfully crossing the Southern border, however and seizure rates remain low.
The opioid being cut with virtually every street drug in the country killed a record 75,000 Americans in 2021 in the latest numbers, the equivalent of 1,500 lives lost weekly.
The common drug adulterant is highly potent and fatal in large doses. The equivalent of five grains of salt worth of fentanyl is enough to cause death.
Meanwhile, a company that processes drug tests has detected a nine fold rise in fentanyl use in the western US these past three years — showing the powerful opioid has now cast its deadly shadow across the whole country.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan, the nasal spray that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses.
The medicine can now be sold over the counter without a prescription.
Fentanyl was invented in the US in 1959 as a cheaper alternative to other painkillers used in hospitals and health centers worldwide.
Three chemicals, benzylfentanyl, 4-anilinopiperidine and norfentanyl and considered to be precursors to fentanyl by the DEA – meaning they are primary ingredients to the drug’s creation.
It binds to opioid receptors in a person’s nervous system, which are responsible for giving the body a pleasurable feeling when activated.