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U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl: The toll of the fentanyl crisis

Virtually nobody in this country has been untouched by the opioid epidemic. Whether it’s a family member or a friend, nearly all of us know somebody who has been affected by it.

The statistics are alarming – fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. On Aug. 21, we recognized National Fentanyl Awareness and Prevention Day, which was established to remember the lives lost due to the fentanyl crisis.

My friend and colleague Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers spoke on the House floor about one young adult named Carson who purchased one pill from a drug dealer who told him he was buying Xanax.

The pill was laced with fentanyl and killed Carson instantly. He was only 23. Unfortunately, there are countless more stories just like this across this nation. Just recently, a teenage girl in Semmes, Ala., overdosed on Fentanyl.

This crisis is affecting us right here at home. Someone in the United States dies every 7.5 minutes from fentanyl poisoning. To put this in perspective, fentanyl overdoses accounted for 77% of adolescent overdose deaths last year.

These overdoses have caused more deaths than COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, and all other accidents. Where is all this fentanyl coming from? It’s coming across the southern border and moving in every direction into every community in this country.

I carry a packet of sweetener in my wallet and use it as an illustration every time I talk to folks about the drugs coming across the border. One small packet of sweetener holds roughly 1,000 milligrams, and it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl to kill a grown man.

This means one packet could hold enough fentanyl to kill several hundred men. That is how dangerous it is.

Customs and Border Patrol agents are regularly seizing “candy like” pills and other items that seem harmless but are laced with pills. It’s not uncommon for them to seize tens or hundreds of thousands of pills in a single day.

Fentanyl seizures have significantly increased this year, directly coinciding with an increase in illegal border crossings (over 3 million since President Biden took office).

According to Customs and Border Protection, over 16,000 pounds of fentanyl have been seized at the border since President Biden took office, and over 2,000 pounds were seized last July alone.

While it’s a good thing law enforcement is catching so much of it, what scares me to death is how much they are not able to catch. I’ve been to the border, and our agents there are simply overwhelmed and understaffed.

Americans want a secure border and safer communities, but our leadership in Washington is not making this a priority. The federal government should do more to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our communities by building the wall, fully funding ICE and border patrol, and investing in cutting-edge technology.

Border security is national security, and it’s time we get tough and end this crisis immediately.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

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