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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town Statement On Pending Expiration Of Emergency Prohibition Of Fentanyl Analogues

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

“The emergency prohibition of fentanyl analogues expires on February 6 without congressional action.  Fentanyl and its analogues are responsible for hundreds of fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the Northern District.  Without action by Congress, my partners and I will not have the tools we need to protect families in the Northern District from the onslaught of these extraordinarily dangerous substances. 

“We have seen a transition in the source of fentanyl finding its way into communities in the Northern District.  Opioids, especially fentanyl, are deadly and are responsible for too many overdoses in the Northern District.  It’s everywhere, in every community. Every socio-economic status, group, or class is vulnerable to the trappings of illegal drug use and the death and destruction caused by opioids, especially fentanyl and its analogues.

“In September, I traveled with a delegation to Mexico and saw the labs where the cartels produce this poison that is coming into our nation by the ton.  I witnessed firsthand the lengths the drug cartels will go to fuel the disease of addiction.  Many of the precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl are shipped into Mexico from China.  I have also spent a career watching the devastation that drug addiction, and inevitable overdose, has on our families, our children, and our communities.  The cartels are increasing fentanyl production right now, all destined for the United States.  Fentanyl serves as a synthetic wrecking ball to our country and must be policed aggressively so that more Americans are spared the near-certain death that too often stems from its mere presence. 

“For your illustration, in 2007 there were 36,000 fatal overdoses in America, with nearly 19,000 from opioids.  By 2017, due in part to the introduction of fentanyl, the total number of fatal overdoses spiked to more than 70,000 with over 47,000 resulting from opioids. While the number of fatal overdoses seems to have leveled off, or perhaps is declining, those numbers record levels of fatal overdoses. The Center for Disease Control has found that Alabama had a significant rise in opioid overdose deaths in recent years.  Opioids are responsible for 68% of all overdose deaths in United States, with fentanyl being both ubiquitous and deadly.  To illustrate further, many of our first responders now carry naloxone to counter the possible deadly effects of coming into contact with fentanyl when treating patients, victims, or just in the collection of evidence after an arrest.

“I join my colleagues in the Department of Justice in urging Congress to give us the tools we need to continue our efforts against the distribution of fentanyl and its analogues here in Alabama and across the United States.  This fight is far from over.  Now is not the time to leave our fight in the dressing room.  Congress must take action immediately to extend the scheduling of these dangerous substances.  Lives are quite literally at stake.”

 Background:  In an effort to combat this deadly drug epidemic, DEA issued a temporary emergency two-year order in February 2018 that made all fentanyl-related substances illegal.  Our country has seen a marked supply impact from DEA’s temporary scheduling of fentanyl-related substances during the past two years, with a 50 percent decrease in fentanyl-related substances encountered across the United States.  However, DEA’s emergency authority expires at midnight on February 6, 2020, unless Congress acts to extend it.

Updated January 28, 2020

Drug Trafficking