A new CDC report based on emergency department data shows a rapid uptick in opioid overdoses on a national level, but fentanyl in particular has hit Missouri’s radar.
“It’s coming on the scene hot,” Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said of the enormously concentrated schedule II synthetic opioid. “It’s being produced in China and Mexico, coming up through the southern part of Texas, Arizona, from Mexico.”
House Bill 1254, sponsored by Schroer, adds fentanyl to Missouri’s drug trafficking statutes, following the lead of other state legislatures across the nation.
Schroer said there are large amounts of fentanyl being trafficked through interstates 55 and 70 in Missouri.
Schroer said currently, there is nothing in the state’s drug trafficking statutes that provides prosecutors a tool to get to the “big dogs” trafficking the substance.
Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, said one of the main reasons fentanyl is not currently included in drug trafficking statutes is because it has typically been used to cut other opioids, such as heroin, to make the product cheaper. But now, he said, fentanyl is being trafficked on its own.
Given that trafficking charges are different than distribution charges, adding fentanyl to the drug trafficking statutes allows for an increase in penalties prosecutors can charge people caught trafficking the drug.
Tim Lohmar, St. Charles County prosecuting attorney, said “that’s a tool that I think we need … so that we can get these people off our streets.”
While fentanyl is one of the most common medicinally used opioids worldwide, it is typically administered in micrograms in the form of patches or lozenges. Because fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, it is incredibly dangerous in its raw form.
According to the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, just three milligrams of fentanyl is lethal, while it takes 30 milligrams of heroin to cause an overdose.
A trunkload of fentanyl contains enough poison to wipe out the combined populations of New Jersey and New York City.
Fentanyl is attractive to drug traffickers because a kilo of the substance could potentially fetch $1 million. A kilo of heroin would net half as much, according to congressional testimony.
Citing data compiled by emergency departments, the new CDC report shows that opioid overdoses have increased by 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017, with the largest regional rate increase of opioid overdoses being in the Midwest — a whopping 70 percent increase.
Missouri alone has seen a 21 percent increase in opioid overdoses within the same time period.
Last year, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., requested information regarding the smuggling of fentanyl into the U.S. from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Service and the U.S. Department of State, and for good reason: A Senate investigation revealed that in 2017, 318 million parcels from abroad entered the U.S. without being monitored.