The potent opioid fentanyl, which is worsening a deadly U.S. drug epidemic, is pouring into the U.S. from an array of sources and presenting law enforcement with complex challenges, says the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Writing to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the drug czar’s office laid out many details about how authorities believe traffickers are moving and selling fentanyl, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Please know that we share the Committee’s view that illicit fentanyl is an urgent public health threat,” said Richard Baum, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Authorities seized at least 668 kilograms of illicit powdered fentanyl last year, the agency said. Because fentanyl is lethal in such tiny amounts—just 2 milligrams—that is enough of the synthetic opioid to kill every American. “And that’s just what they can count,” an Energy and Commerce Committee staffer said. “That’s exactly why it’s a clear and present danger to the United States.” Authorities also have seen large increases in the liquid and pill form of the drug, and seizures of all types of illicit fentanyl have been climbing rapidly. Up to 50 times as potent as heroin, fentanyl is both cheap and lucrative for dealers. The House committee considers it a third wave of the opioid crisis, following prescription painkillers and heroin. Last week, President Trump announced a new commission headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that is expected to make recommendations within 90 days on prevention, treatment and long-term support to curb drug abuse.