July 27,2016

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Alarmed By Dramatic Rise of Illicit Fentanyl

DEA Report Documents Steep Rise of Powerful Opioid Since 2013

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today expressed alarm following the release of a report by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) detailing the marked increase in illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used in counterfeit painkillers, encountered by law enforcement around the country. The report comes following a letter to Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg from Wyden requesting information on fentanyl in June.

“The rise of illicit fentanyl flowing into communities from overseas is an alarming trend that threatens to inflame the already devastating opioid crisis,” Wyden said.

The report released by the DEA details the growing global threat of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl. Although fentanyl mimics the effects of opioids, it is much more lethal due to its potency, contributing significantly to the ongoing opioid crisis across the country.

According to the report, traffickers of fentanyl generally purchase powdered fentanyl and pill presses from China in order to market and distribute the pills within the United States and Canada. The report also discloses that China is the primary source of fentanyl produced for distribution in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

In recent years, fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent across the country, with a reported 13,002 encounters with fentanyl by law enforcement across the country in 2016—a massive increase from the 934 encounters in 2013. Between 2013 and 2014, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that synthetic opioid related deaths had increased from 3,097 to 5,544, and possibly higher due to irregularities in state reporting techniques and deaths mistakenly attributed to heroin.

Wyden also sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske in May requesting further information about the agency’s efforts to control the smuggling of fentanyl into the country.

The full report can be found here.