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Portman Says ‘The President Is Waiting, Pen In Hand’ For Opioid Bill Targeting Fentanyl Trafficking

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is urging his colleagues to take action on a bill targeting synthetic opioid trafficking through the mail following a tweet from President Donald Trump endorsing the legislation.

Portman, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, said “the president is waiting, pen in hand” to sign the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP Act), which the House of Representatives passed June 14. The STOP Act aims to put packages shipped through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) under more intense security screenings to cut down on international trafficking of deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which killed an estimated 81 Americans each day in 2017.

Trump tossed his support behind the STOP Act on Twitter Monday, saying, “It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT — and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!”

Domestic drug dealers are increasingly relying on foreign shipments of fentanyl, primarily from China, which is cut into batches of heroin and other narcotics like cocaine, making the substances more potent and deadly. (RELATED: CDC Warns Of ‘Dramatic Rise’ In Synthetic Opioid Deaths Over 2017)

“The STOP Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this summer, and more than one-third of the senators in this chamber are now cosponsors of this legislation,” Portman said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “In my view, it is long past time for the United States Senate to pass this legislation so that it can become law and begin to make a real difference in our communities. I’d like to thank President Trump for his leadership on this issue. … Let’s not make him wait any longer.”

The legislation would require the USPS to collect “advance electronic data” for any package sent from abroad, telling them who sent it, what it contains and the final destination of the item. Private shipping businesses like UPS are already required to collect digital data. The USPS only received advanced electronic data on roughly 36 percent of packages entering the U.S. in 2017.

Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is blamed as the primary fuel of the current opioid epidemic ravaging the country. Only 2 milligrams of the synthetic opioid can cause an adult to suffer a fatal overdose.

Data released by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 11 reveals the majority of opioid-linked deaths throughout the U.S. are now the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The report shows synthetic opioids killed roughly 27,000 people across the U.S. over the 12-month period ending in November 2017, up from roughly 19,413 lives in 2016 and 9,580 lives in 2015.

The sharp increase prompted a Health Alert Network warning from CDC officials advising of the ever-increasing presence of synthetic opioids in the drug supply.

Drug overdoses, fueled by substances like fentanyl, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under the age of 50. Officials with the CDC estimate drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, exceeding the annual death toll from car crashes and guns.

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