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This week, the Senate voted to designate May 10 as “National Fentanyl Awareness Day,” recognizing the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been affected by this deadly, dangerous drug.

This bipartisan resolution, led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), continues to raise awareness of the effects of the deadly analogues and, hopefully, will save lives.  

Fentanyl, when used safely under the guidance and supervision of a medical professional is an incredible tool to those who need to manage severe and chronic pain. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its chemical variants or analogues are significantly more potent and lethal than other drugs, like morphine and heroin. These analogues are used commercially to sedate large animals, like elephants. Unfortunately, these drugs have made their way into the hands of everyday people and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, was the number one cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.  

In 2018, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified fentanyl analogues as a “Schedule I” substance, or a drug with a high potential for abuse. On March 1, 2022, President Biden in his State of the Union address called on Congress to continue battling the opioid crisis. Since 2018, Congress has worked in a bipartisan manner to extend this scheduling 5 different times, however this authority lapsed on March 11, 2022, after they were unable to come to an agreement. Despite the previous bipartisan success and one American dying from these substances every 8 minutes, Congress has not acted in any meaningful way.  

There are several proposals that have been introduced in Congress, including H.R.2209, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act in the House by Representative Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI-5) with a companion bill in the Senate, S.1006, introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). This legislation would add 5 different fentanyl analogues, as well as all other fentanyl-related substances to schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The passage of this bill would solidify Fentanyl and its related substances as a schedule I drug and would ensure there would be a strong criminal penalty for possession and distribution of the drug.  

We know that Fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug that is tied to 64% of all drug overdoses. This drug is putting the lives of everyday Americans like your friends, neighbors, and family in harm’s way. One way or another, Congress must take this opportunity to act and protect the lives of Americans across the country. 

By Maggie Ruffini
Maggie Ruffini, VP of The Woolf Group and former Senate Staffer