(RepublicanPress.org) – Over the last few years, there has been an unprecedented rise in fatalities related to overdoses of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs. The latest annual report issued by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency noted that Operation Pelican Bones seized nearly 453,000 kilograms of methamphetamine and fentanyl precursor chemicals since 2019. Similarly, Operation Hydra interdicted a similar amount in FY 2022 and more than one million kilograms total since the program’s creation in late 2019.
Recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health showed that nearly 71,000 people died from an overdose of synthetic opioids in 2021, excluding Methadone. That figure represents a year-on-year increase of 22% and an increase of 23 times the figure from 2013.
On September 19, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced the initiation of its “first-ever” strategy to combat the rising level of illicit synthetic opioids entering the country. A recent report indicated that the creation of that program couldn’t come at a better time for residents of Utah.
Fentanyl Becomes an Increasing Problem for Utah
On Tuesday, September 19, Deseret News published an in-depth article discussing the rising availability of fentanyl in the state. The report also pointed out the alarming increase in the powerful synthetic opioids’ potency in recent years.
Utah state senators and representatives with the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee met with several agencies, including members of the state’s Department of Public Safety (UDPS), on Monday to discuss the rising threat of fentanyl to residents.
The UDPS’s head of its statewide information and analysis center, Tanner Jensen, told committee members that fentanyl presented the state’s “greatest drug threat.” He indicated a steady decline in black market prices likely contributed to the problem.
Jensen explained that the current price for a single fentanyl pill ranges from $5 to $12. However, in 2018, state data indicated the same dose sold for between $25 and $30. He predicted it was just a matter of time before the price collapsed. “Today, we’re seeing [it sell at] close to a dollar,” he warned.
Following the usual patterns of supply and demand, the level of fentanyl seized by Utah law enforcement officials has increased exponentially over the last few years. A total of nearly 500,000 doses were seized from 2018 through 2021. Alarmingly, officers reported the discovery of more than 328,000 of them in 2021 alone.
Similarly, Utah law enforcement officials seized nearly 1.5 million doses in 2022. That figure represents more than double the combined total of confiscations in the previous four years.
Deseret News reported that the rising availability of fentanyl has been reflected in the number of deaths associated with the drug’s use. In 2022, 33% of the state’s overdose fatalities involved fentanyl. In 2018, the drug only accounted for about 8% of them.
It remains unclear what lawmakers intend to do about the rising fentanyl crisis. Lawmakers met with law enforcement officials to learn the extent of the problem for future legislative consideration.
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