TOPEKA – U.S. Senator Roger Marshall’s interest in fentanyl-containing drug abuse has taken the form of federal legislation requiring social media companies such as Instagram, TikTok, Snap and YouTube to work aggressively with government agencies to prevent the sale of contaminated pills on their platforms.
The Kansas Republican, who worked as an obstetrician in Great Bend before being elected to Congress, said he would seek passage of a bill bearing the name of Cooper Davis, who died at 16 from a accidental fentanyl overdose last year in Johnson County. He said Cooper and three friends shared pills they thought were Percocet that had been purchased through Snapchat. The portion of the pill Davis consumed contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Kansas is literally at the crossroads of fentanyl trafficking,” Marshall said. “Unfortunately, this is a supply chain from China that is not broken. Dying from fentanyl is poisoning, not an overdose.
He said US government agencies should restrict the flow of illicit fentanyl into the United States from Mexico. He alleged that Chinese chemists and drug cartels mixed pharmaceutical drugs Adderall, Xanax and Percocet or illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine with lethal doses of fentanyl.
The pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It has been approved for the treatment of severe pain.
Marshall said Kansas had 2,500 drug overdoses in the first three months of 2022. Of 338 people in Kansas who died from drug overdoses in the first six months of 2021, 149 involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue, the senator said.
During a US Senate hearing on Wednesday, Marshall asked Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about deterrents to illegal fentanyl use. He asked her to recommend that the US Department of Health and Human Services declare fentanyl abuse a national public health emergency.
“Every day, hundreds of Americans die from fentanyl poisoning,” Marshall said during the monkeypox hearing. “Why didn’t you declare this a public health emergency? Why didn’t you ask the administration to close the border where 90% of this fentanyl comes from?
Walensky said the CDC’s border closure jurisdiction is limited to the spread of communicable diseases rather than the distribution of illegal drugs.
“You’re turning your back on fentanyl poisoning,” Marshall said. “More Americans have died from fentanyl poisoning than we lost in Vietnam.”