Virginia Governor launches war on fentanyl to drop deaths from the drug by 20% trends now
Virginia officials have launched a war on fentanyl, vowing to greatly reduce the number of deaths from fentanyl in his state.
Gov Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who entered office in 2022, called fentanyl a 'weapon of terrorism'.
Fentanyl was responsible for killing at least 70,600 Americans in 2022 and caused more than 1,950 deaths in Virginia alone.
The synthetic opioid enters the US through the southern border and contaminates the illicit drug supply, ravaging local communities and major cities alike.
The Republican governor issued a laundry list of initiatives to fulfill his goal of reducing opioid overdoses in Virginia by 20 percent during his term in office.
Gov Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, has set a goal of reducing opioid overdoses in Virginia by 20% percent during his term
Fentanyl related deaths in the US continue to spiral out of control
The above graph show the CDC estimates for the number of deaths triggered by drug overdoses per year
Gov Youngkin signed the executive order on Tuesday directing the Department of Health to develop a plan for wastewater surveillance ‘to detect the frequency, potency, and occurrences of fentanyl use in specific locations’.
The order also granted individual counties within the state more leeway to secure kits of the overdose reversal ‘miracle’ drug naloxone and directs law enforcement to step up efforts to interdict drug shipments into the state.
It also directed relevant state departments including those for health, social security, and corrections, to improve fatal overdose surveillance, drug interdiction, and public awareness.
Opioids, particularly the ultra-potent synthetic fentanyl, have taken a significant toll on Virginians, who have seen the number of fatal fentanyl overdoses increase 20-fold since 2013, Gov Youngkin said.
He added: ‘We cannot stand by as Virginians lose their lives when there are steps we can take to combat this deadly fentanyl poisoning crisis. We must act.’
Richmond, Virginia’s capital, is among the hottest spots for fatal overdoses due to opioids, with 272 deaths in 2022 and 262 of those due to fentanyl.
Fatal overdoses due to all opioids in Virginia in 2022 reached 2,104, slightly down from the 2021 tally of 2,229 but well above the 2019 total, 1,298.
The vast majority of those deaths were caused by fentanyl.
The drug was introduced in the 1960s as a pain reliever and an IV anesthetic. By the 1990s, drug companies developed fentanyl patches that deposited the medicine into the body through the skin to treat severe pain in cancer patients.
But it has increasingly been found in the illicit drug supply often as a pollutant in other drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepines, meaning many people ingest it unknowingly.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl, equal to around 10 to 15 grains of table salt, can be lethal.
Preliminary figures from the state show that the synthetic drug 50 times stronger than heroin killed more than 1,950 people last year and more than 2,000 the year before.
John Littel, Virginia's health secretary said: ‘Today, five Virginians will die from fentanyl.
'Tomorrow and every day this year, an average of five Virginians will die from this deadly drug.
Within the next four months, the state health department will need to devise a cost-effective way to monitor the sewer system for concentrations of opioids including fentanyl and heroin.
The objective is to use the surveillance data to inform resource allotment, meaning