Fentanyl: Powerful Drug, Deadlier Weapon

Fentanyl: Powerful Drug, Deadlier Weapon
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Sad. Tragic. And terrifying.

Words can barely describe my feelings upon learning of the death of a 21-month-old New Hampshire girl late last year, a victim of fentanyl poisoning after being left alone with the deadly substance by parents rendered senseless by the drug. It’s a heartbreaking case, and one that highlights a frightening fact: fentanyl is more than a dangerously addictive drug; it has the power to kill the unaware and the unassuming; people who have never tried drugs and never go near illicit substances. Fentanyl is a weapon of mass destruction, and deserves to be classified as such.

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are some of the most powerful drugs on the planet. The equivalent of a few grains of salt can be enough to kill a single person. Last year, in Baltimore, Maryland, a single drug dealer was sentenced to prison for trafficking 10 kilograms of fentanyl — enough to kill five million people.

The threat of fentanyl extends beyond the drug cartels at our southern border and the opioid dealers in our communities. Because of its potency and portability, the deadly substance is ripe for use by terrorists and bad actors — across the globe, and in our backyards.

Horrifyingly, it’s already happening.

In Canada, just a few hundred miles from my home in Ohio, unruly inmates at the Quinte Detention Centre in Ontario have corrections officers on edge, threatening “to blow fentanyl in the officers’ faces” to take them out, according to Union President for Correction Officers Tom O’Neil.

Elsewhere in the province, Toronto residents received anonymous letters in December warning recipients to pay vast sums in bitcoin in exchange for their families’ lives. The letters contained a white powder the extortionists purported to be fentanyl. In the Toronto case, the powder turned out to be powdered sugar. Recipients were lucky, but future fraudsters might not be so merciful.

In the 19 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has been in a constant state of heightened vigilance, particularly around the danger of bad actors using a so-called “dirty bomb” to murder thousands of Americans and strike fear into the hearts of millions. To date, most all of the public discussion about dirty bombs and their danger has revolved around their ability to disperse dangerous radioactive residue in a blast area — indeed, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines a dirty bomb as “a radiological dispersal device.” But just as a rudimentary understanding of explosives and the ability to obtain nuclear material could create a dangerous radioactive event, so, too, can fentanyl be used instead of radioactive materials to achieve similar — and likely even more deadly — results.

Even worse, while nuclear materials are extremely difficult to obtain, fentanyl is pouring into our country, available on black markets in most every community in America.

“The Border Patrol just seized enough fentanyl to kill millions of Americans,” U.S. Senator Tom Cotton tweeted after seeing a press conference of Customs and Border Protection officials in Arizona announcing a major fentanyl seizure. “This was not just a drug bust — it was a dirty bomb coming across our southern border.”

I agree, and so do a growing number of officials across the country.

Families Against Fentanyl, the organization I founded after losing my son Tom to fentanyl poisoning, seeks to spread word of the clear and looming risk fentanyl poses not only to those suffering from substance use disorder, but also to our national security and way of life. We are asking the federal government to classify fentanyl as the Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) that it is.

And we’re not alone. Already more than 8,000 people have signed our petition asking for fentanyl to be classified as a WMD, with new co-signers coming on board every day.

Classifying fentanyl as a WMD would activate an all-of-government approach to the crisis heretofore unseen. It would direct additional resources and federal oversight to tackle the fentanyl menace in a manner that would save lives while putting cartels and terrorists on notice: if you traffic in fentanyl, you’re not just attacking our communities and families; you’re attacking America — and you’ll pay the price.

James Rauh is the founder of Families Against Fentanyl. Visit familiesagainstfentanyl.org for more info.

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