By Dave Marlon, The Washington Examiner, March 16, 2023
Authorities in southern Nevada recently launched a task force to curb fentanyl -related overdoses. This followed a 36-hour period in September when first responders answered calls for help to six fentanyl-related deadly overdose cases in Las Vegas.
Fentanyl is an extraordinarily powerful opioid .
The scale of its toxicity and deadliness is difficult to imagine. Indeed, the amount it would take to cause an overdose of the entire community of Las Vegas could easily be concealed in an airline carry-on item. While stories of first responders overdosing by simply touching the substance are sensationalized, a minuscule amount of fentanyl can take a life. Fentanyl is being trafficked over the U.S.-Mexico border in quantities sufficient to take millions of lives.
There were nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths reported in the United States in 2020. Of those deaths, 56,516 involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, which the National Institute of Drug Abuse identified primarily as fentanyl. The U.S. has to act. The federal government should immediately enact policies to reduce this national security threat.
Virtually all fentanyl entering the U.S. has a common point of origin: China. From the perspective of a licensed drug and alcohol counselor supervisor, there are several things that we can do right away.
First off, we can encourage those with substance abuse disorders to embrace evidence-based treatment programs. Next, U.S. diplomats and other government officers who deal with China should increase pressure on the communist-led government to curb the domestic production and illegal export of fentanyl to the U.S. China says it wants only “win-win” cooperation with the U.S. Its fentanyl policy begs to disagree. Third, we need stricter import controls and law enforcement both at land and sea ports of entry. Fentanyl smuggling needs to come with tougher criminal penalties.
My organization, Vegas Stronger, together with many other public agencies, is distributing free test strips to the public so those wanting to avoid inadvertently taking fentanyl can mitigate the risk of doing so in a safe, shame-free way. The opioid epidemic in America has been a public health emergency.
We need to acknowledge the source of the problem and take dramatic action to reduce the consumption of fentanyl and all illegal opiates.
Dave Marlon is the CEO of Vegas Stronger, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit group providing an easily accessible pathway to recovery for every Las Vegan, with a focus on southern Nevada’s homeless population. He is the Southwestern regional vice president of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and has been a licensed drug and alcohol counselor with more than 17 years of sobriety.