Curbing the opioid epidemic starts with solving the border crisis

Opioid abuse and addiction are inflicting a grave and growing toll on communities across the nation, leaving users and their loved ones looking for answers on how to curb the destruction.
There are numerous reasons the opioid epidemic has spread so far and wide, but there is no doubt the epidemic is made much worse by foreign drug cartels and smugglers that traffic deadly synthetic opioids to every corner of the United States.
Law enforcement in Ogle County is fighting on the front lines to curb the opioid epidemic, but to truly fix the problem at the local level, federal lawmakers must come together to solve the crisis at the border.
In October 2017, President Trump declared opioid abuse a “national health emergency” and predicted that the epidemic would only get worse unless action was taken. Unfortunately, since the President’s declaration, federal lawmakers have failed to come together to take serious measures to prevent synthetic opioids from fueling the opioid epidemic.
The numbers tell the story – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that synthetic opioids are the cause of the sharpest increase in drug overdose deaths. From 2013 to 2016, deaths from fentanyl increased 520 percent. At the same time, deaths from prescription opioids have fallen. In fact, synthetic opioids now account for 75 percent of the opioid-related deaths in the country.
Fentanyl is fueling the opioid epidemic because it is so deadly. The drug is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. It can shut down breathing in less than a minute. A miniscule amount – the equivalent of four grains of salt – can be deadly. There are reports from around the country of innocent victims, first responders, and law enforcement being hospitalized because they inadvertently came in contact with the drug.
U.S. officials are unequivocal that China is the main source for fentanyl and other illicit drugs entering the country, and Mexican drug cartels are the primary conduit for smuggling and distributing it across every state. These synthetic drugs are cheap to make, can be sold over the internet, sent by mail, or smuggled into the country at legal and illegal points of entry.
Border patrol seizures of fentanyl have risen drastically in recent years, but more needs to be done. In January of this year, Customs and Border Protection officers made the largest fentanyl seizure in the agency’s history when they confiscated 254 pounds of the drug valued at $3.5 million. But the problem extends far beyond the border states. In April 2018, state troopers in Nebraska seized 118 pounds of fentanyl from a tractor-trailer during a routine traffic stop. This staggering amount contained enough lethal doses to kill more than 26 million people.
The solution to the opioid epidemic can be achieved, but lawmakers must come together to take action. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have reached a consensus on the importance of increased support for the border security measures necessary to stop the inflow of drugs into the country. Yet in spite of that agreement, the politicians in Washington, D.C. have yet to put their differences aside to fix the problem.
As Ogle County Sheriff and a 10-year law enforcement veteran, I have an up close and personal view of the immense pain and suffering the opioid epidemic has inflicted on families throughout Ogle County. To curb the epidemic in our county, we must stop the flow of deadly synthetic opioids into our country by foreign drug smugglers and cartels, and that starts with solving the border crisis at the federal level.

Brian Van Vickle is the Ogle County Sheriff.


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