Texas Ramping up Efforts to Fight Fentanyl Crisis Impacting Communities

Texas Ramping up Efforts to Fight Fentanyl Crisis Impacting Communities
An Ontario Provincial Police officer displays bags containing fentanyl during a news conference in Vaughan, Ont., Canada, on Feb. 23, 2017. (The Canadian Press/Chris Young)
The Center Square

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has instructed state agency heads to “look for ways to enhance all aspects of the state’s response to” the fentanyl crisis, including creating public service announcements, posting flyers in prominent locations around regulated facilities, training staff, or providing educational opportunities.

They’ve also been instructed to prepare “to outline statutory changes, budget priorities, and other initiatives that will enhance the state’s ability to interdict this dangerous drug, provide emergency overdose treatment, and expand substance abuse treatment programs” ahead of the 2023 legislative session and to coordinate their efforts with the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council.

In a letter sent to agency heads, Abbott wrote, “It has become clear that fentanyl is impacting individuals with and without substance use disorders. Unfortunately, most individuals who suffer a fentanyl-related death probably did not know they were ingesting the deadly drug. Many of those who were poisoned unwittingly ingested deadly counterfeits that appeared to be prescription drugs, which were acquired outside of the healthcare system.”

His letter comes after 18 state attorneys general have called on President Joe Biden to label illicit fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. Montgomery County, Texas, Sheriff Rand Henderson has also called for it to be labeled as a WMD and Tulare County, California, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux argues fentanyl pills “coming across our southern border is absolutely one of the biggest issues we are facing as a country.”

Two milligrams of the synthetic opioid, the weight of a mosquito, is lethal. A teaspoon holds about 5,000 milligrams, enough to kill 2,500 people. One pound of fentanyl, or 453,592 milligrams, could kill 226,796 people.

In 2021, Texas reported an 89 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths compared to 2020.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 45. In 2020, 77 percent of all teen overdose deaths involved fentanyl, according to a study published by JAMA.

Most drugs laced with fentanyl in the U.S. are being manufactured by cartel operatives in Mexico and made to look like legitimate prescription drug pills. They’re easier and less expensive to produce than other types of illicit drugs and can be easily carried in backpacks or hidden inside cargo brought across the border. More recently, “rainbow fentanyl” pills that look like candy are flooding the market and are intentionally being marketed to children.

“Simply put, fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are falling victim to the cartels that are producing it,” Abbott said. “Due to the threats posed by an open border and in the absence of federal action,” he launched Texas’ border security mission, Operation Lone Star, last March. Since then, Texas Department of Public Safety officials have seized more than 336 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

In July alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 2,100 pounds of illicit fentanyl. In fiscal 2021, CBP agents seized 11,200 pounds of fentanyl. So far in fiscal 2022, they’ve seized 10,600 pounds.

In both fiscal years so far, CBP agents have confiscated enough fentanyl to kill nearly 5 billion people.

The world’s population is currently 7.9 billion people, according to Worldometer.

While law enforcement officers’ efforts “are noteworthy and commendable,” Abbott argues they “alone cannot be expected to end this crisis.”

By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com
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