Fitzpatrick, Tsongas Bill Targets Synthetic Drug 50x Stronger Than Heroin

Bipartisan Measure Seeks to Stem Flow of Synthetic Opioids into U.S.

April 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) have introduced the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act, a bipartisan bill to combat the opioid epidemic. The legislation would provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

“From Levittown to Lower Salford, no part of my district is left unaffected by our opioid crisis. As an EMT and former federal drug prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of addiction in our communities and understand the increased danger added by synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our nation’s drug epidemic is a complicated issue and our response must be multi-faceted; that means disrupting the flow of drugs while also increasing the accessibility and affordability for prevention, education, treatment, and recovery of this disease. I’m grateful for the support of Rep. Tsongas and our Senate counterparts for working in a bipartisan fashion to tackle the issue of fentanyl entering our communities as part of our larger strategy to combat this national crisis.”

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most fentanyl deaths are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and illicit versions of chemically similar compounds known as fentanyl analogs. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl rose 72 percent, amounting to 9,500 deaths.

The primary source of fentanyl is outside of the United States, in Mexico or China. The drug is smuggled in across the U.S. border or delivered via mail or express consignment couriers. Fentanyl can also be ordered online. Because of its potency, fentanyl typically comes in small amounts, making it more difficult for authorities to detect.  

Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

  • Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
  • Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field. 
  • Authorizes — based on CBP guidance — the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

The INTERDICT Act was introduced in the Senate on a bipartisan basis by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). A copy of the bill can be found HERE.

What They’re Saying About the INTERDICT Act:

  • Bucks Co. District Attorney Matt Weintraub: “Heroin and other opiates are killing our citizens. When misused or abused, fentanyl is much deadlier than heroin. We must take an all-out approach in stemming the tide of illegal drugs available for abuse.  Law enforcement will continue to play a critical role in this battle against the drug scourge and the criminals who peddle this poison.  We are grateful to Representatives Fitzpatrick and Tsongas for the introduction of the INTERDICT Act. I am personally aware of Representative Fitzpatrick’s tireless commitment to his citizens and to empowering law enforcement in its fight against the drug scourge. INTERDICT will give law enforcement many additional tools and resources it needs to detect this deadly drug before traffickers can put it into the stream of commerce.  Just as sure as heroin and fentanyl kill; the INTERDICT Act will save lives.”

  • Beverly Haberle - Executive Director, Council of Southeast Pennsylvania: “Addiction is a complicated problem which requires multi-pronged approaches. The introduction of fentanyl increases the death rate associated with opioid overdose. This bill strengthens one important prong in effectively intervening with this devastating problem that affects us all.”Jay Kurko - Lower Bucks Addiction Task Force (LBATF)Jay Kurko - Lower Bucks Addiction Task Force (LBATF)

  • Jay Kurko - Lower Bucks Addiction Task Force (LBATF): "The opioid scourge our community faces every day has only been made exponentially worse with the introduction of synthetics such as fentanyl.  The INTERDICT Act is the right bill at the right time!  Many lives will be saved by the bipartisan actions of Representatives Fitzpatrick and Tsongas.  Honored to have Congressman Fitzpatrick representing/helping us by bringing his insightful perspective and expertise into the ‘all hands on deck’ fight against this elusive foe." 

  • Pamela Garozzo, Bucks Co. mother whose son, Carlos, died of a sythetic opioid overdose: “As the parent of a child who died from an opiod that contained fentanyl, I applaud and support the proposed INTERDICT Act.  If this kind of drug screening had been available, my son Carlos might still be alive.  No parent should have to suffer the loss of a child, especially by means that are preventable.” 

  • Congresswoman Niki Tsongas: “We are currently facing a nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse that is resulting in drastic increases in addiction rates, overdose deaths, and incarceration. Every corner of Massachusetts has been hit hard and people across my District – families, officials and those on the front lines of law enforcement and public health – all agree we need a comprehensive, cooperative, resourceful effort to effectively combat this crisis. This bill is key to that mission, and would be a powerful tool for eliminating synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, from the equation. As we see synthetics become more potent and more prominent, providing CBP with more equipment and resources will improve their ability to keep these harmful substances out of our country. I thank Rep. Fitzpatrick for his partnership to introduce the INTERDICT Act in the House, and I commend our Senate counterparts for their bipartisan leadership in this effort. The opioid epidemic doesn’t care which political party you belong to, and if we want to effectively combat this national crisis, neither can we.”