The synthetic opioid fentanyl is now killing more Ohioans than heroin or other prescription painkillers.
Ohio’s overdose death toll in 2016 — more than 4,000 — ranked second in the nation. More than half of those deaths were attributable to fentanyl, authorities say. The drug — more than 50 times as powerful as heroin — is a scourge heaped on top of the drug addiction epidemic already gripping the country.
To get the drug to Ohio and other parts of the United States, Chinese suppliers rely on one shipping partner — the United States Postal Service.
As a Congressional investigation revealed last year, USPS is the drug dealers’ shipper of choice because, unlike private companies such as UPS or FedEx, the postal service is not required by law to use an advanced electronic data-tracking system that helps authorities discover and intercept parcels carrying illicit drugs.
Drug traffickers tell their Internet customers they use the postal service precisely because they are confident the lack of tracking will ensure their packages of deadly fentanyl will be delivered without problem.
The Synthetic Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act, sponsored by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and co-sponsored by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, would require the postal service to use the same system as private companies, eliminating the foreign drug dealers’ shipping method of choice, and helping authorities stem the flow of fentanyl.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the bill earlier this month. Now it is time for the Senate to vote on the measure and get it before President Trump for his signature.
Drug smugglers surely won’t close up shop in response, but at least the postal service will not be such an easy unwitting accomplice. And perhaps the measure will provide enough of an obstacle to slow fentanyl trafficking at least briefly.
The United States must get a grip on the terrifying opioid epidemic, addressing the demand for the deadly drugs with prevention programs, more responsible guidelines for prescribing addictive painkillers, and more detox and treatment beds. Ohio’s communities also need many more resources to deal with crushing burden of addiction on schools, law enforcement, social service agencies, and more.
Disrupting the supply chain of deadly fentanyl shipped from overseas, however, is also a crucial element in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
The Senate should move swiftly, the President should sign the STOP Act, and the postal service should embrace the technology that will help authorities find and seize fentanyl before it reaches Ohio’s streets.
This column was originally published in the Toledo Blade on June 18. It was provided by Portman’s office. The link is