A bipartisan proposal in the Senate would give border agents the technology to screen for chemicals at U.S. entry points in an effort to target fentanyl shipments.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida proposed the INTERDICT Act earlier this year and are renewing their call for support after a report released Tuesday showed fentanyl deaths are rising. Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reveals 81 percent of opioid-related deaths over the first quarter of 2017 involved fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, reports The Herald News.
Fentanyl was only involved in 19 percent of opioid-related deaths in the state as recently as 2014. Markey says the bill can help stem the massive tide of fentanyl flowing into the U.S. across the southern border, which is blamed as a primary driver of the current epidemic.
“Fentanyl is presenting as the deadliest illicit opioid drug Massachusetts is facing,” Markey said Wednesday, according to The Herald News. “There is no easy solution, but we know we must stanch the flow of this drug across our borders before we lose an entire generation to this terrible opioid killer. My legislation, the INTERDICT Act, will give our first responders the tools they need to fight this fentanyl epidemic while also protecting our brave first responders who are on the front lines of this tragic epidemic.”
Law enforcement blames fentanyl for the steep increase in fatal opioid overdoses that claimed an estimated 60,000 lives in 2015. Dealers in the U.S and Mexican cartels are turning to China in greater numbers for shipments of fentanyl at a fraction of the price of heroin. It is then used to create roughly 20 times more doses out of a heroin batch, providing dealers with huge profits.
Officials estimate more than 90 percent of heroin in the U.S. is flowing in from Mexico.
A recent investigation by STAT predicts the annual death toll from opioids will rise by roughly 35 percent between 2015 and 2027. Their analysis predicts up to 500,000 people could die from opioids over the next decade. The experts agree, even in a best-case scenario, the crisis will not visibly start to subside until after 2020.