Portman Op-Ed for Columbus Dispatch: “OSU Death Example of the Terrifying Rise of Counterfeit Drugs. National action is needed.

May 24, 2022

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Portman difference

In a new editorial for the Columbus Expedition, Senator Portman discusses the deadly opioid epidemic that continues to tear families apart across the country. Portman draws particular attention to the recent deaths of two students of Ohio State University who tragically overdosed on pills they thought were Adderall but were poisoned with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

As Portman explains in the op-ed, Congress can do much more to make sure our streets, neighborhoods, and communities are safe from this drug. Portman noted that in addition to legislation to curb telehealth drug treatment and national drug addiction programs, we can’t ignore where the drugs come from: our southern border.

Portman concludes by asking Republicans and Democrats to work together to push through his bipartisan CARA 3.0, FIGHT the fentanyl lawand Candy Law legislation, which expands the reach of our health care and justice system to ensure that all Americans who struggle with drug addiction have a chance to beat this disease, and that those who sell synthetic opioids are punished.

Excerpts from the editorial can be found below and the full editorial can be found here.

OSU dead example of terrifying rise of counterfeit drugs. National action needed.
By US Senator Rob Portman
The Despatch of Columbus

We have a growing drug overdose epidemic in Ohio and across the country that has resulted in record overdose deaths and threatens to get worse if we don’t act. According to the Ohio Department of Health in 1999, there have been 327 overdose deaths in Ohio. In 2021, Ohio is expected report more than 5,200. Nationally, the numbers are equally disheartening.

According to data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,622 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States last year, the highest number ever recorded in a calendar year. The biggest culprit, by far, is the powerful synthetic fentanyl opioid, a lethal dose of which is equivalent in size to a few grains of salt. Unfortunately, many don’t even know they’re taking fentanyl because it’s so easy to disguise as another drug.

Based on media accounts, three Ohio State University students recently overdosed on counterfeit drugs containing fentanyl; two of them died. That’s not all. According to Council of Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services of Lorain County27 overdoses were reported in the first two weeks of May alone. April 6, youwarned the Drug Enforcement Administration of a national spike in massive overdose events linked to fentanyl, which expands on an earlier warning about fake prescription pills containing fentanyl. This is the first time in more than six years that this type of alert has been issued.

To deal with this crisis, the country needs a strong response that tackles both the demand side and the supply side of the problem. First, on the supply side, we need to address the amount of fentanyl that crosses the southern border. In simple terms, the Biden Administration We must take action to prevent fentanyl from entering our country through our ports and other drug smuggling operations. A less secure southern border means more fentanyl is also getting through. This last AprilI, a recording 1,300 pounds of fentanyl were seized – the highest amount ever recorded in a single month. In 2021, fentanyl seizures doubled the amounts of 2020 and quadrupled the seizures compared to 2019, but it is only fentanyl that is seized. According to the DEA, the vast majority of fentanyl passes undetected.

On the demand side, my Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and CARA 2.0, have provided state and local governments and nonprofit groups with support for proven prevention, recovery, and treatment programs to help addicts recover. Additionally, strengthening telehealth services can help provide a lifeline for people struggling with opioid addiction. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, approximately 2.5 million Americans had an opioid use disorder in 2020 and 11% of them received TMAs, or drug treatment. I want to completely remove this requirement in person, which is why I introduced bipartisan legislation called the Jelehealth Response Act for Electronic Prescription Drug Treatment Services (TREATS) to address this issue and expand telehealth services for the treatment of substance use disorders.

Finally, we must prosecute those responsible for the sale of these drugs. My Bipartisan FIGHT Fentanyl Act would solve this problem by permanently classifying fentanyl-related drugs in Schedule I. This would allow law enforcement to prosecute those who do not only sell fentanyl for drugs that are slightly modified to appear as fentanyl. As Ohio continues to face rising levels of opioid abuse and overdoses, we need to double down on the chances of fentanyl being masked as a prescription drug. Congress can and must do more to fight this epidemic by passing my CARA 3.0, FIGHT Fentanyl Act, and TREATS legislation, which expands the reach of our health care and justice system to ensure that all Americans struggling with addiction have the chance to defeat this disease, and those who sell synthetic opioids are punished. Together, we can ensure that the people of Ohio have access to the care they need, so that no more innocent lives are lost.

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