Biden’s State of the Union and Fentanyl Reform Proposal
During the State of the Union Address, fentanyl was a top priority on President Biden’s agenda. The overwhelming fentanyl crisis seemed to be a hot topic of discussion that both sides of the polarized government could be seen agreeing upon during the president’s address to the nation.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is 50 times more potent than heroin and almost 100 times more powerful than morphine. The highly addictive substance has become a popular ingredient in the illicit drug market due to its high potency, inexpensive price and ease of production. It has been increasingly used in the counterfeit production of prescription pills.
Fentanyl overdose is now the leading cause of death in adults 18-45 years old, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite these alarming statistics, the number only seems to be rising with the U.S. on track to losing another 1 million lives to fentanyl and opioid overdose within the next decade, according to researchers.
Killing an estimated 70,000 Americans a year, the fentanyl crisis has become a dangerous ongoing problem, said the president. During the SOTU, Biden introduced his guests Doug Griffin and Pam Griffin. They are the parents of 20-year-old Courtney, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2014. The president describes Courtney as a typical American girl whose life was unfairly taken away by the drug. During his speech, congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, proceeded to interrupt and shouted “it came from China.” Other lawmakers followed with comments such as “it’s your fault.” The interruption led House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to shush his fellow policymakers as Biden continued his speech.
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Another family touched by the fentanyl crisis was also in attendance at the SOTU. Laura Didier and Chris Didier came as guests of California Republican Representative Kevin Kiley. Their 17-year-old son Zach thought he was buying Percocet from a dealer on Snapchat. It turned out the pills were actually fentanyl and their son died of an overdose in 2020. According to the Didiers, there are a few actions that can be taken by politicians and policymakers that can immediately help the crisis.
1. Significant increase in education and awareness of fentanyl in schools and other educational institutions.
2. More enhanced screenings of what is being moved across the U.S. borders because most of the fentanyl has come from outside of the country.
3. An overhaul and update of communication laws making it more difficult for drug dealers to prey on young people through social media apps and other similar platforms.
Ultimately, increasing overall awareness of the dangers of a fentanyl overdose is a topic leaders across both parties can agree on, say the Didiers.
To address fentanyl issues, Biden went on to say policy reforms should include launching major surges to stop fentanyl production, sale and trafficking. He added that “with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powders at the border,” overdose deaths could be prevented. The president also mentioned efforts to work with couriers such as FedEx to organize more rigorous inspections on packages and implement stronger penalties on fentanyl trafficking. The administration also plans on expanding access to evidence-based preventions, harm reduction strategies and recovery treatment programs.
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However, Biden’s fentanyl drug reform has some critics calling out flaws in his proposals. One important factor in the new proposal includes categorizing all fentanyl-related substances as the most severe type of substance according to DEA classifications. Critics say this only creates a larger negative stigma and fear surrounding fentanyl. This discourages many to seek help and treatment. It prioritizes criminalization over effective healthcare measures and fails to recognize the root cause of opioid death.
Addiction and overdose deaths from opioids continue to be a dangerous problem in the U.S. The State of the Union’s fentanyl reform proposal highlights the seriousness of this problem. Americans and policymakers on both sides of the political aisle agree that aggressive action must be taken to curb this threat.