America’s opioid crisis continues to grow more severe. More than 80,000 Americans per year die from opioid overdoses, including fentanyl. Estimates of the total economic burden of opioid misuse range from a low of $140 billion (an average of about $425 per person in the US) to over $1 trillion per year (over $3,300 per person). Those expenses include the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Concern over the crisis has led to a growing bipartisan consensus that we do more to address it. Frequently mentioned proposals include:
- High Tech Screening—Invest in equipment that can detect fentanyl or its precursor ingredients that come into the country illegally but through the mail or through legal ports of entry, typically hidden on ships or in the vehicles of American citizens returning from Mexico
- Prevention and Treatment—Increase investments, or at least maintain the increased funding provided during the COVID pandemic
- Test Strips—For example, make strips readily available that allow one to detect fentanyl or Xylazine, another dangerous drug that is sometimes included with fentanyl or other illicit drugs. Many overdoses occur because the person did not know that these dangerous ingredients were in the drug they were taking
- Enhanced Law Enforcement—Increase the penalties for the illicit manufacturing, distributing, and/or illegal use of these drugs as well as more robust enforcement to keep dealers from using social media to sell their drugs, especially to minors