A groundbreaking report by the Washington Post has revealed that from 2013 to 2017, the Obama administration ignored, downplayed, or failed to act on multiple warnings that synthetic opioid deaths were becoming an epidemic in the country.
In the most startling instance, 11 opioid medical experts pressed the administration to declare Fentanyl a national public health emergency in 2016. This would permit a “laserlike” focus that would greatly blunt the damage done to the nation. The administration reviewed their concerns and then decided not to act. According to the report:
Between 2013 and 2017, more than 67,000 people died of synthetic-opioid-related overdoses — exceeding the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. The number of deaths, the vast majority from fentanyl, has risen sharply each year. In 2017, synthetic opioids were to blame for 28,869 out of the overall 47,600 opioid overdoses, a 46.4 percent increase over the previous year, when fentanyl became the leading cause of overdose deaths in America for the first time.
Not until the final days of his administration did the White House finally declare fentanyl to be a national crisis, yet no legislation came as a result. Former Drug Czar, John P. Walters said of the administration’s response:
We saw more action by the White House over an outbreak of tainted food, giving out news releases telling people what to look for, telling people to protect their friends and family, than you did for fentanyl. It’s a little ridiculous that we don’t use the bully pulpit to at least provide a national warning.
It wasn’t until 2018 that legislation was finally passed. H.R.6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, was passed with bipartisan support. The bill was a package of various adjustments to existing laws to make it easier for victims of opioid addiction to get help. When advocating for it, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio stated, “How many people had to die before Congress stood up and did the right thing with regard to telling our own Post Office you have to provide better screening?”
Ohio has consistently been among the top five states with the highest rates of Opioid-related deaths. Since 2010, synthetic opioids deaths in Ohio rose from 175 to 2,296 deaths. As previously reported, “one of the greatest contributors to the startling rise was the proliferation of synthetic opioids.” The study specifically pointed to Fentaynl and Methadone as among the most prolific and deadly synthetic opioids common on Ohio streets.
Ohio has only recently begun to recover from the epidemic, yet Fentynal remains common.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.