Home Columnists Trump Signs INTERDICT Act to Fund Fentanyl Detectors at Border Crossings

Trump Signs INTERDICT Act to Fund Fentanyl Detectors at Border Crossings

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By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

As Congress races to find a legislative solution to address the pending end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in March, most media attention has been focused on covering these proposals. However, one border security-related bill recently passed with flying colors that garnered little notice — and may have a significant impact on the current opioid crisis in America.

On January 10, President Trump signed the INTERDICT Act (short for International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology). According to USA Today, the Act provides $9 million in funding and allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to buy chemical screening devices that can detect fentanyl and other opioids as visitors enter the United States. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), passed the House 412 to 3 and was unanimously approved in the Senate.

Opiate Addiction Rising in US, Especially among Teenagers

The United States is currently in the midst of an opiate addiction crisis. Its roots can be traced back to the development of prescription narcotics like Vicodin and OxyContin in the 1990s, but the crisis has steadily progressed. Because of their incredibly high addiction potential, oxycodone pills soon found their way on to the black market.

Hardcore users don’t just swallow the pills; they crush them and inhale the powder. They may also dissolve the powder in liquid and inject it to achieve a euphoric state similar to that of heroin use.

The most disturbing aspect of this crisis for Americans is the demographic being affected — their teenage children. The faces of heroin addiction in the U.S. have historically been those worn by people of color, the homeless, rock stars and actors.

However, what started out as stealing prescription pills from parents has evolved into a situation where white upper middle class teenagers are buying and using black tar heroin from Mexico on a regular basis. In many cases, the addition is happening right under the noses of their parents.

Opiate overdose statistics were already skyrocketing in some parts of the country (specifically the Midwest and Northeast states). But they’re now climbing even higher, due to the introduction of the synthetic chemical fentanyl into the U.S. heroin supply.

China Is Biggest Smuggler of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin, as well as many times more addictive and deadly. Heroin doses are now often laced with fentanyl to get users more addicted and thus more reliant on their dealers. However, some addicts go straight to fentanyl when their tolerance for heroin maxes out.

According to USA Today, China is the largest source of fentanyl smuggling, but the drug is often shipped first to Mexico or Canada where it then crosses the border into the U.S. It’s often shipped by mail or other couriers and even ordered online, but it can be difficult to detect in small amounts.

K-9 Officers Using Naloxone to Protect Police Dogs from Overdosing

While CBP narcotics detection dogs are invaluable when it comes to identifying trace amounts of illegal drugs at ports of entry, there have been several reports of drug dogs overdosing and dying from exposure to opioids.

According to the Associated Press, some police department K-9 officers have started carrying naloxone, which helps prevent overdoses, for their dogs. DEA Deputy Administrator Jack Riley urged police to avoid testing suspected fentanyl in the field and to take it to a lab instead.

New Act Will Protect People and Police Dogs from Opioid Hazards

By employing opioid detectors at ports of entry, CBP can help prevent more drug dog overdose deaths, in addition to preventing the entry of deadly fentanyl and other opioids into the United States. The Act also instructs the CBP Commissioner to “dedicate the appropriate number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, including scientists, so that such personnel are available during all operational hours to interpret data collected by chemical screening devices.”

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