Opioids Gone, Pain Goes On


James Fotis President of the National Center for Police Defense
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Lawmaking in America has changed quite a bit since the deep philosophical writings of our forefathers. Today those who occupy the seats of power, predominantly lawyers, produce documents that are essentially legal templates copied and pasted into law after law. While each has all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed this process has created laws that do not always look at the reality of the situation at hand. Opioid addiction, and the federal response, is one such example.

Everywhere you look the issue is at the forefront of the public’s mind. The President has spoken about the issue at great length and Congress has held a host of hearings. Public awareness has been raised through the media, and it has been addressed in churches, schools and a host of other venues. However, all of these efforts to date have failed to prevent an increase in overdose deaths.

In law enforcement, the first thought in dealing with any illegal contraband is to stop its use, its production, its entry into a country, and the way it’s distributed. That is not the case with prescription opioids. While discussions on appropriate prescribing methods and non-opioid pain treatment options are important, these drugs have legitimate medical uses. Knee jerk decisions to regulate and sue pharmaceutical manufacturers out of business will only hurt the pain patients who need these medications the most and open the door to dangerous alternatives, namely in the form of illegal drugs. Congress, when crafting their response to the opioid crisis, has failed to recognize this part of the equation.

That is why despite new CDC guidelines and swift Congressional action against opioid manufacturers and distributors, the number of opioid overdose deaths has risen over the last few years. The emergence of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil that are manufactured in Chinese laboratories and smuggled over the Mexican border is fueling this surge in deaths. Oftentimes these drugs take the form of Mexican Oxy, fentanyl and carfentanil laced tablets that are manufactured to look like legitimate prescription pills. Inconsistent quality, users who unwittingly ingest these substances, and the potency of these drugs (they are 50-100 times more potent than heroine) has made for a lethal combination.

A Task Force or Commission should be set up to look at what is happening beyond the legal production of pain relieving medication, a topic that Congress has already explored fairly thoroughly. These findings should then be brought before Congress as part of a broader set of hearings about how easy illegal fentanyl, carfentanil, and other synthetic opioids are arriving at our door in the United States.

Do we want to leave the door open for the Mexican Cartels and the Chinese Illegal drug Industry to find a new fast easy way to poison our society? Synthetic opioids have exited the realm of heroine and counterfeit pills and are now being used to lace drugs from marijuana to cocaine. Just small amounts are enough to kill millions. 33 pounds of fentanyl that was recently seized by a Boston federal task force, for example, was enough to kill 7 million people or more than the entire population of Massachusetts. The danger is real and absent swift action, it will not go away. This is why we need a true bipartisan investigation and Congressional hearings concerning synthetic opioid issue.

Addiction threatens all Americans, possibly more today than ever before. Law enforcement, our thin blue line is already stretched to beyond the breaking point. The opioid crisis extends beyond all boundaries. Over regulation of prescriptionpharmaceuticals will not solve the problem, or cure the crisis. It is merely a band-aid. The problem has evolved and is now driven by illegal opioids such as, fentanyl and carfentanil that enter at our borders and extend into households all across America. Until we get this under control, there will be more deaths of civilians and our first responders will continue to be at risk of overdose from incidental contact with these potent illegal drugs. A true solution, which tackles the pain of addiction that has continued, is what is needed.

James Fotis is the President of the National Center for Police Defense and served for fourteen years as a Police Officer for the Lynbrook, New York Police Department, retiring as the highest decorated officer in department’s history.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.