Illegal drug overdoses recently became the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, killing more people in this age demographic than car accidents, cancer, and COVID-19.
In Louisiana, opioid deaths increased by 40% from 2020 to 2021, mostly driven by an increase in illicit Fentanyl.
What is Fentanyl?
It is a synthetic opioid that’s 80 to 100 times stronger than Morphine, created with chemicals often shipped from China to Mexico and trafficked by cartels across our southern border.
According to recent testimony from the National Border Patrol Council, Customs and Border Patrol agents are struggling to stop just 5% of all the Fentanyl flooding across our border.
Fentanyl’s potency means the smallest amount—just enough to fit on the tip of a sharpened pencil—is considered a lethal dose. And now it’s fueling one of the worst drug epidemics in American history.
In 2021, there were 100,306 drug overdose deaths reported in the United States. That number is up from 78,056 just a year earlier.
When the federal government identifies a threat to the safety and security of our country, its number one responsibility is to mobilize to help keep Americans safe.
We commenced the Manhattan Project to produce the first nuclear weapons that ended World War II. We initiated Operation Warp Speed to create the tests, treatments, and vaccines that helped mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, the flow of illicit Fentanyl into our country is rapidly becoming the number one threat to the well-being of our communities, and yet, the Biden Administration’s response to date has been outrageously counterproductive:
They have refused to secure our southern border to stop the flow of these drugs. They have failed to prosecute drug offenders, and have instead supported progressive D.A.s in their quest to reduce felony offenses to misdemeanors. They have further fueled the drug abuse crisis by actually including in their “American Rescue Plan” a provision to distribute drug paraphernalia at taxpayers’ expense.
Fentanyl deaths are certain to increase unless we act with the same resolve that we have used to attack other, less deadly threats.
To help in the fight against this growing epidemic, I introduced the CEASE Overdose Act in the House of Representatives to permanently classify illicit Fentanyl as a Schedule I narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
There is no reason in the world why Congress should be required to reauthorize this deadly substance’s temporary Schedule I classification multiple times each year. Our law enforcement agencies need more certainty to aggressively prosecute Fentanyl-related offenses.
My bill will help our law enforcement agencies get control of the crisis that is destroying so many American families and communities. The criminals responsible for this tragedy must be put on notice that we will no longer tolerate their illegal activities.
To help reverse the growing Fentanyl crisis, we need a full-court press on our streets, at our borders, and abroad—and this bill is a critical step in that effort. But it’s just one step.
The Biden Administration needs to work with Republicans immediately to secure our border. Our cities need to be tougher on drug distributors, and all of us need to do the work in our communities to prevent drug abuse rather than accommodate it.
This epidemic of tragic overdoses can end, but only if we work together. Politics must take a back seat when so many countless innocent lives are at stake.
Congressman Johnson represents Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Republican Conference, a member of the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and a former constitutional law litigator. This piece originally appeared at the Shreveport Times.