There is a real public health crisis among America’s young people, and it isn’t COVID-19. Every day, more than 300 of our children and loved ones are poisoned with fentanyl—an extremely lethal drug often disguised as other medication and hidden in party drugs popular among our youth. Yet most leaders in this country refuse to talk about it, let alone work to stop it.
When COVID-19 hit, multiple agencies at the federal, state and local levels conducted massive public service campaigns. Posters, radio, TV and social media ads instructed us to wash our hands, cover our cough, keep our distance, wear a mask, and get vaccinated. The campaign continues today, despite the weakening of the virus. According to the CDC, 1,494 Americans aged 0-18 years have died of COVID-19.
That number pales in comparison to fentanyl poisonings.
The American public needs to understand these fentanyl deaths aren’t classic overdoses among addicts. These aren’t broken kids with “substance use disorder.” The overwhelming majority aren’t actively seeking fentanyl at all. Rather, in an age where medication is advertised wall-to-wall on our TVs, radio and social media, kids (like adults) think they can take a pill to fix anything, including stress and anxiety—conditions rampant among young people.
>>> Twenty-First Century Illicit Drugs and Their Discontents: The Scourge of Illicit Fentanyl
In a time where drug use among our youth is as much a rite of passage as alcohol use, illicit fentanyl hit the stage, and it’s killing them. When medication is ordered online or when recreational drugs are passed out by an acquaintance at a party, it is far too often illicit fentanyl, and it kills before the victim even realizes what is happening to them. Additionally, those who do suffer from substance use disorder are all future opportunities to recover stolen from them by fentanyl-contaminated drugs consumed without knowledge or intent.
This drug crisis is unlike any we’ve ever experienced. It requires a different approach. “Applied harm reduction” hasn’t moved the needle an inch to reduce illicit fentanyl mortalities for the past nine years. Neither rehabilitation nor needle exchanges nor “safe” injection centers can rehabilitate a dead child or a non-addicted teenager.
There were COVID-19 death and injury tickers on the internet and corners of our TV screens throughout 2020. Where are the fentanyl death and injury counters? How many fentanyl poisonings are survived? Nobody knows. How many deaths have been the direct result of fake prescription pills? Nobody knows. How many deaths have been caused by commonly used party drugs? Nobody knows. After nine long and deadly years, illicit fentanyl doesn’t even have its own category rating in ICD-10 mortality codes; it’s mixed with other synthetic drugs.
Fentanyl poisoning is decimating a new, non-addicted population because our leaders refuse to give public safety warnings. Where are the studies? Politicians won’t even assess the problem. Nor will they talk to families and parents of children poisoned by illicit fentanyl, because that would require admitting that this is a different type of drug problem, and it needs to be addressed.
>>> Fentanyl’s Wake
One obvious issue is that politicians would have to admit how our open southern border has fueled this fatal epidemic. Most illicit fentanyl today is manufactured in Mexico and brought across our southern border. In 2021 alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 21 million fake prescription pills containing illicit fentanyl. Of those tested, 40% contained lethal amounts of the drug. This year, the agency has seized 50.6 million counterfeit pills and more than 10,000 pounds of powdered fentanyl—“enough to kill every American,” as the DEA put it.
Bags of these deadly fake pills are now being found in middle schools. But the Biden administration and the left remain fully committed to their open border policies—even though opioids, largely fentanyl, are now the No. 1 killer of Americans aged 18-45 years old.
The fentanyl crisis has tremendous suffering even beyond the fatalities. It has left untold numbers of parents broken and grieving and hundreds of thousands of children traumatized by the loss of one or both parents.
How many more American kids must die before this administration will change course?
This piece originally appeared in MSN