By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Tuesday is the first National Fentanyl Awareness Day. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody took a moment to sound the alarm, warning Americans: “one pill can kill.”
“The shocking increase in the number of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl should concern everyone, especially President (Joe) Biden, who continues to ignore federal immigration laws — paving the way for these dangerous drugs to flood into our country,” Attorney General Moody said. “Nobody should use illicit drugs. Not only are they illegal, but they can be lethal.
“On this first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, I am demanding that Biden take action and reminding Floridians that just one laced pill can kill.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more deadly than morphine, is the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 45. More people in this age group are dying from fentanyl than from suicide, vehicle accidents, gun violence and the coronavirus, national data show.
Last year, the U.S. “suffered more fentanyl-related deaths than gun-related and auto-related deaths combined,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram said.
Roughly two milligrams of fentanyl, about the weight of a mosquito, is enough to kill a full-grown adult.
According to a recent report published by the National Institutes for Health, law enforcement seizures of pills laced with fentanyl increased dramatically between January 2018 and December 2021, increasing nearly 50-fold from the first quarter of 2018 to the last quarter of 2021. The proportion of pills to total seizures also more than doubled, with pills representing over a quarter of illicit fentanyl seizures by the end of 2021, the report found.
“For the first time we can see this rapid rise in pills adulterated with fentanyl, which raises red flags for increasing risk of harm in a population that is possibly less experienced with opioids,” Dr. Joseph Palamar, NYU Grossman School of Medicine associate professor and co-investigator of the NIH report, said.
“We absolutely need more harm reduction strategies, such as naloxone distribution and fentanyl test strips, as well as widespread education about the risk of pills that are not coming from a pharmacy,” he added. “The immediate message here is that pills illegally obtained can contain fentanyl.”