One of America's most pressing public health problems is drug abuse and addiction. Deadly drugs that are smuggled across the border are killing Americans every day. To stop this crisis, lawmakers should come together and strengthen the nation's borders before we lose more Americans to drug abuse.

President Trump declared a national health emergency two years ago in response to record deaths from opioids. Prescription drugs caused some of these deaths, but deaths from prescription opioids have actually declined. In contrast, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are killing more and more Americans every day.

Fentanyl is a very deadly drug. Deaths from it have increased 520 percent, and in Illinois alone, deaths from fentanyl have increased 834 percent. It is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times as potent as heroin. A dose as small as a few grains of salt is deadly. This means that it can be smuggled easily and in a package as small as a standard-sized envelope.

International drug smugglers and cartels from China and Mexico are causing the fentanyl problem in our country. Chinese manufacturers ship the drug in bulk to Mexican cartels who smuggle it into the U.S. In the last few months, fentanyl seizures have increased dramatically at our southern border because the Mexican cartels have started making the drug in their own mega labs. Just days ago, nine Americans got caught in the deadly crossfire between rival cartels warring over the chance to sell fentanyl in the U.S.

The cartels are trying to hook a new population of addicts by putting fentanyl in other more common drugs like meth, and that has big consequences for our area. In addition to meth, the cartels mix fentanyl with cocaine, heroin, and other popular drugs that can be found in Southern Illinois. Even worse, they mass produce fentanyl-filled counterfeit pills to look like Vicodin, Xanax, and other common drugs to hook pain patients and casual drug users. Without even knowing it, people have died from fentanyl by using another drug mixed with it.

The drug crisis is a major concern for Southern Illinois. In addition to the opioid epidemic, meth cases and seizures are on the rise in our area. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says meth is "making a comeback" in Illinois. In the past, the drug was made by local manufacturers, but now it's increasingly common to have meth sourced directly to Mexico. The already serious problem could get even worse now that the cartels are fusing meth with fentanyl, an even deadlier drug.

Massac County law enforcement will continue to work with federal, state, and local partners to protect our residents, but when it comes to fighting drugs, we need help from outside the county. Defeating drug abuse in southern Illinois includes stopping the flow of deadly drugs across our nation's borders.

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