Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last week led a group of their colleagues in introducing a Senate resolution designating May 10, 2022, as National Fentanyl Awareness Day.
Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to the influx of fentanyl – a synthetic opioid – being mixed into illicit drugs. Representatives David Trone (D-Md.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) are leading the resolution in the House.
In the 12-month period ending October 2021, more than 105,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. Nearly 69,000 of those deaths involved fentanyl. In the 12-month period ending April 2021, fentanyl was the leading cause of deaths for Americans aged 18 to 45.
The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that nearly 40 percent of illicit pills contain potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. The number of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl seized by the DEA has increased more than 500 percent since 2019, up to 9.5 million counterfeit pills in 2021.
“Once fueled by prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the United States for years is now fueled primarily by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is lethal at extremely low doses. This means when illegal drug dealers mix small amounts of the drug into counterfeit pills, the risk of an overdose death rises exponentially,” said Senator Feinstein. “With fentanyl-related deaths climbing every year, we must do more to raise awareness of what is fueling record-high overdose deaths.”
“Fentanyl has poisoned the streets of our communities, including through counterfeit pills that are made to look like prescription drugs. These fake pills are often sold on social media or other online platforms to teenagers and young adults, which has worsened the substance abuse crisis. By joining our effort to raise awareness, law enforcement officers, parents and educators across the country can take proactive steps to get illicit counterfeit pills off the streets and help save lives,” Senator Grassley said.
“Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have become the number one driver of drug-related deaths in America. Even worse, most folks don’t even know the real dangers of fentanyl-laced drugs before taking them,” said Representative Trone. “As a country, we need to take charge of our own destiny to not only stem the supply of these lethal drugs across our borders, but also reduce the demand in our own communities through prevention, treatment, and recovery. By increasing the awareness of fentanyl and its deadly impacts, we can save lives.”
“Sadly, millions of Americans know the pain and anguish of losing a loved one to an overdose. Last year more than 100,000 thousand Americans lost their lives and their battle with this highly-addictive drug,” said Representative Upton. “On this day of awareness we hope to remember those we have lost as well as address the root cause of these tragic deaths. We must hold the manufacturers and sellers accountable and provide treatment to those afflicted with addiction.”
The resolution is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.).
For more information and resources on National Fentanyl Awareness Day, visit fentanylawarenessday.org.
Full text of the resolution is available here and below:
Title: Supporting the mission and goals of National Fentanyl Awareness Day in 2022, including increasing individual and public awareness of the impact of fake or counterfeit fentanyl pills on families and young people.
Whereas drug traffickers are mass-producing fake or counterfeit pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills to deceive the people of the United States;
Whereas many fake or counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription name-brand opioids or stimulants;
Whereas drug traffickers are using fake or counterfeit pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse;
Whereas the Drug Enforcement Agency (referred to in this preamble as the “DEA”) has observed a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing not less than 2 mg of fentanyl, which is considered a deadly dose;
Whereas 4 out of every 10 pills with fentanyl tested by the DEA contain a potentially lethal dose;
Whereas counterfeit pills may also contain fentanyl-related substances and methamphetamine;
Whereas the number of counterfeit pills with fentanyl seized by law enforcement agencies has increased by nearly 502 percent since 2019;
Whereas more than 9,500,000 counterfeit pills were seized within the last year, which exceeds the total number of seizures for the previous 2 years combined;
Whereas fake or counterfeit pills have been identified in all 50 States and the District of Columbia;
Whereas illicit fentanyl has also been detected in street drugs such as heroin and cocaine;
Whereas, for the 12-month period ending in October 2021, more than 105,000 individuals in the United States died of drug-induced deaths, and 69,000 of those deaths involved illicit fentanyl;
Whereas, over the last 20 years, drug-induced deaths among individuals aged 15 to 35 has increased 6-fold, largely driven by the increase in illicit fentanyl drugs;
Whereas, for the 12-month period ending in April 2021, the leading cause of death for individuals in the United States aged 18 to 45 was illicit fentanyl;
Whereas fake counterfeit pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them accessible to teens and youth;
Whereas illicit fentanyl is involved in more deaths of youths than all other drug types combined;
Whereas, in 2020, drug overdose and poisoning deaths for individuals aged 14 to 18 grew by 94 percent, which was more than 3 times as fast as the national rate and faster than any other 5-year age group;
Whereas, in 2020, fentanyl involvement in drug overdose and poisoning deaths for individuals aged 14 to 18 grew by 169 percent, which was more than 3 times as fast as the national rate and faster than any other 5-year age group; and
Whereas, in 2020, there were 56,516 reported overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids; Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) supports the recognition and goals of National Fentanyl Awareness Day, which include increasing individual and public awareness of the impact of fake or counterfeit fentanyl pills on families and young people;
(2) applauds the work of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies that work to combat the proliferation of counterfeit pills;
(3) encourages the use of existing authorities to proactively stop and prevent the spread of illicit counterfeit pills; and
(4) designates May 10, 2022 as “National Fentanyl Awareness Day”.