The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is set to check the trafficking of illicit fentanyl analogs into the country, the Department of Justice has announced. According to an official statement released on Nov. 9, 2017, the federal agency intends to classify all fentanyl-related drugs at the same level as heroin and other controlled substances to curb the rising overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids.
“By scheduling all fentanyls, we empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to take swift and necessary action against those spreading these deadly poisons. I also urge the many members of Congress who clearly share our concern and alarm over fentanyl’s role in our opioid overdose epidemic to do their part by permanently scheduling these lethal substances,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
A major chunk of illicit fentanyl and related substances enters the U.S. through the mail or express shipping systems. Alternatively, they also make their ways into the country through the southwest border. Overseas chemical manufacturers, with the help of illicit domestic distributors, attempt to evade regulatory controls by developing structural variants of fentanyl. These equally potent variants are not directly listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and thus, are able to reach their potential takers.
Currently, prosecutors face many legal hurdles to label charges against these traffickers under the Analogue Act. However, the new regulation would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute traffickers accused of possessing, importing, distributing or manufacturing all forms of fentanyl-related substances. The temporary scheduling will take around 30 days to go into effect after the DEA publishes its notice of intent. The scheduling will last up to two years, with a possible one-year extension under certain conditions. Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug for its high potential for abuse, which can lead to psychological as well as physical problems.
Increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths
Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids have witnessed a drastic increase over the past few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of opioid overdose deaths in 10 American states during the second half of 2016 involved fentanyl. Of 5,152 overdose deaths involving opioids, almost 3,000 tested positive for fentanyl while another 700 for fentanyl analogs, including carfentanil that is an extremely potent drug used to sedate large animals.
Drug addiction of any type poses deleterious health implications. The good thing is that it is treatable with timely medical intervention that includes medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If you know someone struggling with drug addiction, encourage him or her to seek professional help from a reputed rehabilitation center. Remember that substance use disorders can have life-threatening consequences, if left untreated.
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