Commentary: How fentanyl got its grip on Texas


As a former Border Patrol Agent, Member of Congress and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I understand first-hand the difficulties of securing our borders.

Perhaps today, there may be no more important border-security priority than stopping fentanyl, the synthetic opioid, from entering the United States from Mexico and China.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever approved for treating severe pain and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it does have a legitimate medical use, the CDC says it “is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect.”

UPDATE: Police warning of dangerous new substances used to lace heroin, fentanyl.

CDC statistics found that “among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with over 20,000 overdose deaths.”

The rise in fentanyl-related overdoses is tied directly to the national opioid epidemic, which over the last decade has become our nation’s biggest public health crisis.

As law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the over-prescription of opioid medications — and as physicians are taking steps to limit the availability of these drugs — treatment is often missing from the equation. Lacking access to drug rehabilitation, addicts look to synthetic opioid alternatives. Regrettably, drug dealers and international crime syndicates have stepped in to lure addicts by producing, smuggling and distributing fentanyl across America.

One way that fentanyl enters the country is through online sales from China. Investigators recently identified 500 online fentanyl transactions that had a street value of about $766 million, according to a report by the US Congress. Many of these illegal drug shipments originating from China were even conducted through the U.S. Postal Service. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, one of the sponsors of the report, stated, “We now know the depth to which drug traffickers exploit our mail system to ship fentanyl and other synthetic drugs into the United States.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Viewpoints page brings the latest commentaries to your Facebook feed.

Another way fentanyl is smuggled into the country, is across our southern border. Drug cartels in Mexico — already experts on bringing methamphetamines into the U.S. — now are using the same methods to bring in fentanyl, which, is even more deadly and addictive than meth.

Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services, recently told legislators that over the last decade that the number of opioid-related overdoses in Texas has steadily increased. “From 1999 to 2007 there was a steep increase in the number of drug overdose deaths, starting at 793 and peaking at over 2,000. Since then, we have remained at 2,000 deaths in any given year,” he said.

I want to be clear: It will not be easy to stem the tide of fentanyl. After all, it is both highly addictive for users and extremely profitable for dealers. But, for the safety our friends, families and neighbors, all law enforcement agencies simply must do a better job.

Reyes, a Democrat, represented Texas’ 16th District in Congress from 1997 to 2013.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Educational fraud continues

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation’s Report Card, was released. It’s not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just...
Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ignites war of words with N.J. governor
Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ignites war of words with N.J. governor

Once again, a GOP leader, through the use of bellicose rhetoric, has talked us into a war of words with a foreign power with nukes and a hard-to-understand language. Let us hope this does not escalate into a war of weaponry. You’re thinking President Donald Trump vs. North Korea (which has nuclear weapons). I’m writing about Gov. Greg Abbott...
Letters to the editor: April 24, 2018
Letters to the editor: April 24, 2018

Re: April 22 commentary, “Castillo: Why the ‘hyphenated Americanism’ comment triggered outrage.” The creator of the saying “the law is what the judges say it is” might also have agreed that it is what five judges say it is — until five judges change their minds. So it is with history. The struggle to integrate...
Opinion: Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother

My mother and Barbara Bush were contemporaries. Despite coming from very different backgrounds — daughter of a Kansas farmer and daughter of a New York City businessman — they had a common experience, a very human link. It’s a sad connection that I suspect also has many a woman feeling fondly toward Bush, who died Tuesday at 92. Both...
Opinion: Paul Ryan is the ultimate party man

The mistake about Paul Ryan, the one that both friends and foes made over the years between his Obama-era ascent and his just-announced departure from the House speakership, was to imagine him as a potential protagonist for our politics, a lead actor in the drama of conservatism, a visionary or a villain poised to put his stamp upon the era. This Ryan-of-the-imagination...
More Stories