If you thought the opioid crisis was someone else’s problem, think again. A report on preventable deaths just released by the highly-respected National Safety Council found a person now has a greater chance of dying from an overdose than in an automobile accident.
The chance of dying from an opioid overdose, the NSC reports, is now 1-in-96, whereas the probability of dying in a motor vehicle crash — traditionally the archetype of accidental, preventable death — is 1-in-103.
“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the council said in a statement released in mid-January.
Highway safety is a national obsession. The need to address the opioid crisis deserves the same measure of our attention, which, until President Donald Trump seized upon as an issue in the 2016 campaign, it didn’t get. The addiction to opioid painkillers is laying waste to communities, devastating families and threatens the economic recovery.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control pegs the increase in the number of opioid overdoses in 2017 at 30 percent. That’s not coming from the abuse of prescription drugs supplied by reputable doctors. More likely, the increase is being fueled by unregulated synthetics like fentanyl and knockoffs coming into the country illegally.
“Mexican Oxy” is one kind of knockoff favored by the cartels operating south of the border. The counterfeit pills are made to look like Oxycontin but are laced with heroin, fentanyl and sometimes both, making it much more dangerous. It’s has turned up all over the country.
In one drug seizure that happened in New Jersey, the pills uncovered by law enforcement contained a lethal combination of heroin, morphine and fentanyl.
What to do? First, place the blame where it belongs: on smugglers and traffickers and others engaged in the illegal manufacture and sale of these dangerous drugs and facsimiles that every day are taking American lives. But because this issue now intersects with the need for enhanced border security and customs enforcement, the politics of the moment may prove deadly.
Mexican drug cartels and Chinese-backed smugglers bring their poison into the U.S. through normal points of entry and over the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s difficult to find good estimates because it’s hard to know what is getting by but the fentanyl seized at ports of entry in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, totaled 1,196 lbs. with another 181 lbs. taken at the border.
There’s a big difference between the two but the amount seized at the border is enough to provide a fatal amount for 26 million people all by it itself. It’s hard to say honestly that drug trafficking over the border isn’t a problem.
There’s a lot more going on. Drug makers, doctors, pharmacists, and the government all helped create the problem policymakers are dealing with, but presuming they are the only ones at fault. All this does it is let the real bad guys off the hook.
The problem won’t be solved any time soon. The government shutdown and the fight over border policy and immigration are in the way. That’s a shame because it means people will continue to die because law enforcement can’t keep this poison off the streets.
The domestic crackdown has helped some, but it’s also fueled the demand for illegal opioid-like alternatives. And it’s making smugglers primarily from China and Mexico like the Sinaloa Cartel, the criminal enterprise once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, rich.
This must end. The U.S. government needs to increase pressure on the Chinese to eliminate the production of synthetic heroin. And it must help the new president of Mexico find his footing on the issue. He campaigned and won by promising in part to fight official corruption, corruption that depends on drug money to keep the wheels greased.
Congress needs to wake up to the fact U.S. law enforcement agencies are outspent and outmanned by sophisticated, billion-dollar criminals. This fight needs more than a wall to bring it to a successful conclusion.
Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom, a visiting scholar at Asian Forum Japan and a fellow at the Center for a Free Economy. Roff is also a former UPI senior political writer.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.