The United States had 107,622 drug deaths in 2021, a 15% increase of 13,967 from 93,655 in 2020. Almost the entirety of the increase is due to fentanyl. West Virginia had 1,194 fentanyl and other synthetic opioid deaths in 2021, up 10% from 1,083 in 2020.
This substance is now the No. 1 killer of adults aged 18-45.
There’s no question why state attorneys general are pushing the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. This deadly synthetic opioid is mainly being funneled through our unprotected southern border — Chinese chemical manufacturers are making and sending the raw ingredients to make fentanyl to Mexican drug cartels, which are in turn making and trafficking fentanyl on an industrial scale. But in the face of this evolving and significant problem, the federal government has seemed content to stand by. This is a matter of life or death, and we need to treat it as such.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, powdered fentanyl looks just like many other drugs. It is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and made into pills that resemble other prescription opioids.
And because of the low cost of production, inherent lethality and vast availability of the substance, fentanyl is an ideal choice for bad actors to use as a chemical weapon.
Classifying fentanyl as a WMD would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration to coordinate a response with other agencies, including the Department of Defense—as opposed to the federal government only treating the substance as a narcotics control problem.
Behind the statistics are stories of people who have lost loved ones to this menace. I was recently joined by eight of those families in calling for more action to curb the illicit flood of fentanyl into West Virginia and the nation. Their stories are what drives me to go the extra mile in doing everything I possibly can within the boundaries of the law to push the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Enough is enough. Far too many people are dying because of this menace. It is these families’ voices that must be heard, their warnings that we must hear and their calls to action that we must heed.
I will keep fighting for them. The stakes are too high, and failure is not an option.
Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia