Letters to State Department and HHS call for guidance and resources for states to address deadly synthetic opioid, status of international efforts to mitigate trafficking of drug

Washington (May 12, 2016) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today sent letters to the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking about their efforts to address the rise in overdose deaths associated with the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl. Between 2013 and 2014, more than 700 deaths in the United States were attributed to fentanyl. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that more than 50 percent of 2015’s 1,300 opioid-related overdose deaths had a positive screen for fentanyl.

In March 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide alert on illicit fentanyl as a threat to health and public safety, warning that it is 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Because it is often added to other drugs such as heroin, overdoses are common with users who are often unaware of the strength of what they are ingesting. Additionally, because of its potency, law enforcement and other first responders are in direct danger due to skin contact or accidental inhalation. Mexico and China are the primary foreign sources for fentanyl and have been the focus of diplomatic efforts to curb fentanyl trafficking.

“Fentanyl is the Godzilla of opioids and it will overrun communities and lay them to waste unless we take action now to stop it,” said Senator Markey. “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. We also need to ensure law enforcement and our first responders have been educated about the additional risks associated with coming into contact with fentanyl and have the naloxone they need to prevent overdose deaths. We need Massachusetts and all state officials to have appropriate federal guidance to obtain a more accurate picture of fentanyl’s deadly impact. I look forwarding to hearing from the State Department and Health and Human Services about their strategies to combat this deadly new scourge.”

A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to the State Department can be found HERE. A copy of the letter to HHS can be found HERE.


In his letter to the State Department, Senator Markey asks what efforts exist between the United States and China to combat the trafficking of fentanyl, what rules China has put in place to stem production and sale of fentanyl and its precursors, and what efforts exists between the United States and Mexico to combat trafficking, including fentanyl eradication efforts undertaken through the Mérida Initiative.