Fentanyl is the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45. The opioid crisis has been present in America since the mid-1990s but has worsened significantly over the past few years. Communities across the country cannot successfully fight this epidemic with the steady stream of drugs flowing through the open southern border.
Experts tie this most recent wave of increase in opioid overdoses and fatalities to the rise of fentanyl. Fentanyl, a member of the opioid family, is a synthetic substance that is manufactured in China, sold to drug cartels in Mexico and other countries in Central and South America, and funneled across the U.S. border illegally. Last year, fentanyl was linked to almost 75% of drug overdose-related deaths.
Most recently, we’ve seen fentanyl in the form of rainbow-colored pills targeting younger Americans, and across the country, fentanyl-related teen deaths are increasing. A recent public health study in Georgia found that fentanyl-related deaths in teens increased by 800% compared to the year before the pandemic.
Horry Country, South Carolina, where I was raised and have lived my entire life, was named the No. 1 county in the state for opioid overdoses. As a member of the South Carolina State House, I felt responsible for finding a way to fight this epidemic in my state. I proudly chaired the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee. As a bipartisan group, we toured the entire state to hear from medical professionals, law enforcement, doctors, teachers and victims who were in recovery or who had lost loved ones to overdoses.
From this, the committee and I created 18 policy proposals that were signed into law or implemented statewide that ranged from prevention to education to treatment to access to care to law enforcement support and funding.
Some of the most impactful solutions implemented statewide were in the areas of education and law enforcement. In K-12 schools, we strengthened education requirements to include overdose awareness and prevention. For higher education students, we implemented a requirement for students studying in the medical field to complete an opioid addiction course on overdose treatment.
For law enforcement officers, we began to provide naloxone, a drug that reverses the effect of an opioid overdose. We also established a Good Samaritan law that allows someone to report an overdose without fear of arrest, creating more opportunities for recovery.
South Carolina is not a border state — we’re not anywhere near the southern border. However, since the Biden administration has essentially put out a welcome sign and said come on in, it has become a free-for-all for Central and South American drug lords smuggling fentanyl into the U.S. South Carolina, like the rest of the country, has had a drastic rise in fentanyl overdoses.
The first step to solving this crisis is to get control of our porous border. It is the federal government’s responsibility to prevent illegal drugs from entering and being distributed across the country so that an overdose prevention policy on any level has a chance of making a difference.
In 2017, President Donald Trump and the Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. While the Biden administration has continued the declaration and introduced policy initiatives, they are ignoring the most significant cause of this issue. In July 2022 alone, Customs and Border Protection seized enough fentanyl for over 480 million potentially lethal doses.
The Biden administration and “border czar” Kamala Harris must first provide federal assistance to get control of our border and stop illegal drugs from infiltrating the U.S. We have to get a handle on this epidemic. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. This crisis has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, and as drug accessibility continues to increase, the threat of overdoses and fatalities becomes more and more imminent.
I’m urging this administration to set politics aside. Look at what the out-of-control border is doing to American families, not only in border states but across the country. It’s past time to address the situation. Lives are being lost.
• Russell Fry is the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. He is the first Trump-backed Republican to win a GOP primary against an incumbent challenger who supported impeachment. He currently serves as a South Carolina state representative and practices law in Myrtle Beach.
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