Sen. Ed Markey calls fentanyl ‘the Godzilla of opioids’

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., speaks during a news conference on opioid and heroin abuse, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Sen. Edward Markey speaks during a February news conference on opioid and heroin abuse on Capitol Hill in Washington. –Alex Brandon / AP

In letters to federal agencies Thursday asking about what was being done to combat the effects and trafficking of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, Sen. Ed Markey put the stakes in theatrical terms.

“Fentanyl is the Godzilla of opioids and it will overrun communities and lay them to waste unless we take action now to stop it,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote.

In March, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a national alert on fentanyl. Often laced in heroin and other drugs, the synthetic Schedule II narcotic is estimated by the DEA to be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times stronger than heroin.

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Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data finding that 50 percent of the statewide 1,379 overdose deaths in 2015 with a toxicology screen tested positive for fentanyl. In every Massachusetts county, except for one, the number of overdoses increased compared to 2014.

Additionally, the potency of the drug puts overdose first responders in “direct danger,” according Markey’s office, from skin contact or accidental inhalation.

A recent STAT report found that, while most focus is directed toward illegal trafficking by Mexican cartels, Chinese suppliers were also “flooding” the United States and Canada with fentanyl.

“We need to ensure both China and Mexico are living up to their promises to combat the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States,” Markey wrote.

In his letter to the State Department, the senator inquired about the international efforts to combat trafficking between the United States and China, as well as what domestic action China had taken to stem production.

In a second letter Thursday, addressed to the Department of Health and Human Services, Markey urged federal outreach to first reponders on the risks of the drug and the need to for higher available doses at-hand of the overdose antidote naloxone.

“We need Massachusetts and all state officials to have appropriate federal guidance to obtain a more accurate picture of fentanyl’s deadly impact,” he added.

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