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New Report: The White House’s Failure to Fight Fentanyl

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press release

New Report: The White House’s Failure to Fight Fentanyl

May 5, 2022

New Report: The White House’s Failure to Fight Fentanyl As last year’s overdoses exceeded 100,000 deaths, the current administration has failed to adapt life-saving practices in their latest national drug control strategy 

NEW YORK, NY – The United States is in the grips of a deadly drug epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported provisional data showing overdose deaths among Americans exceeded 100,000 for the last recorded year. Of those deaths, 77,000 were associated with opioids. Despite this alarming rate, the current White House administration has remained committed to a poorly focused strategy which offers little hope for change. In a new issue brief for the Manhattan Institute, senior fellow Randall Lutter reviews the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) the White House released last month, proposing solutions for how policymakers can better tackle this growing crisis. 

Lutter starts by laying out the landscape of drug use in the U.S. and evaluating factors responsible for the uptick in overdoses. He reviews how overdose death from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have rapidly grown as a share of overall overdoses, while prescription opioid use has more than halved since 2011. But the current administration has failed to focus on the new threat caused by the increased supply of low-cost illicit synthetics like fentanyl, so Lutter details what a better policy response from the federal government should entail. Suggestions include: 

  • The Administration should strengthen a key policy goal of the new NDCS to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by saying by how much the Administration will in fact reduce supply by a given date. The administration must also track and disclose metrics related to purity-adjusted fentanyl quantities seized as well as make specific commitments to significantly increase such seizures. In addition, it needs to compile and report black-market price of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids and make a concrete commitment to significantly raise the street price of such illicit drugs by cutting supply and disrupting the distribution networks.  
  • The Administration should abandon and overrule the CDC’s reluctance to use wastewater-based testing for opioids—a technique already developed for fentanyl and used in Canada to forecast overdoses and death. Adopting wastewater-based testing for opioids would help both law enforcement and public health authorities and would offer a substantial improvement over current surveys of self-reported use, which many users of illicit drugs are reluctant to acknowledge.  

Congress and the White House need to provide a genuine data-driven campaign against dangerous addictive opioids, rather than process-oriented performance “objectives.” Otherwise, ravages from opioid abuse will persist. During the Covid-19 pandemic, federal agencies provided weekly and daily counts of deaths stemming from the virus. If the CDC could provide similar timely information related to drug overdoses, government agencies could more effectively enhance transparency and track improvements.

Click here to read the full issue brief.

Contact:Avery JamesPress Officer(650) 704-6459ajames@manhattan-institute.org

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