U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, wants social media companies to deter sales of illegal drugs containing fentanyl on their platforms and for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to support a federal declaration of fentanyl abuse as a national emergency. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from U.S. Senate YouTube channel)
TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall’s interest in the abuse of drugs laced with fentanyl has taken the form of federal legislation requiring social media companies such as Instagram, TikTok, Snap and YouTube to work aggressively with government agencies to prevent sale of tainted pills on their platforms.
The Kansas Republican, who worked as an obstetrician in Great Bend before elected to Congress, said he would seek passage of a bill named for Cooper Davis, who died at age 16 from accidental fentanyl overdose last year in Johnson County. He said Cooper and three friends shared pills they thought were Percocet that had been purchased through Snapchat. The portion of a pill consumed by Davis contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Kansas is literally at the crossroads of fentanyl trafficking,” Marshall said. “Unfortunately, this is one supply chain from China that’s not broke. Dying from fentanyl is poisoning, not an overdose.”
He said agencies of the U.S. government ought to restrict the flow of illicit fentanyl into the United States from Mexico. He alleged Chinese chemists and the drug cartels were lacing pharmaceutical drugs Adderall, Xanax and Percocet or illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine with lethal dozes of fentanyl.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It was approved for treatment of severe pain.
Marshall said Kansas had 2,500 drug oversdoses in the first three months of 2022. Of 338 people in Kansas who died of drug overdoses in the first six months of 2021, 149 involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, the senator said.
On Wednesday during a U.S. Senate hearing, Marshall questioned Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about deterrents to consumption of illegal fentanyl. He asked her to recommend the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declare abuse of fentanyl a national public health emergency.
“Every day hundreds of Americans die from fentanyl poisoning,” Marshall said during the hearing devoted to monkeypox. “Why have you not declared this a public health emergency? Why have you not asked the Administration to shut down the border where 90% of this fentanyl comes from?”
Walensky said CDC jurisdiction in terms of closing the border was limited to spread of communicable diseases rather than distribution of illegal drugs.
“You’re turning your back on fentanyl poisioning,” Marshall said. “More Americans have died from fentanyl poisioning than we lost in Vietnam.”
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