Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, is leading a bipartisan effort to crack down on illegal shipments of synthetic opioids through the U.S. mail, which is contributing to the large influx of fentanyl into the country.
The STOP Act, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, aims to put packages shipped through the U.S. Postal Service under more intense security screenings to cut down on international trafficking. Domestic dealers are increasingly relying on foreign shipments of fentanyl, primarily from China, which is cut into batches of heroin, making it more potent and potentially deadly, reports USA Today.
The legislation would require the Postal Service to collect “advance electronic data” for any package sent from abroad, telling them who sent it, what is contains and the final destination of the item. Private shipping businesses like UPS are already required to collect digital data.
“People are going on the Internet and ordering it and it’s coming to their home,” Portman told USA Today. “It’s driving law enforcement crazy because it’s cheap, it’s deadly and…it’s coming through the mail system.”
Law enforcement blames fentanyl, a painkiller 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, for the steep increase in fatal opioid overdoses that claimed a record 33,000 lives in 2015. While heroin continues to flow over the border from Mexico, dealers are turning to China in greater numbers for shipments of fentanyl at a fraction of the price of heroin.
While a kilogram of heroin from a Mexican cartel will cost a domestic supplier roughly $64,000, they can order a kilogram of fentanyl through the mail from China for only $2,000.
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.
Authors of the study note in 2010 only eight percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin.
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