The powerful synthetic opioid has long been linked to a rise in overdose-related deaths. Federal officials are signaling a new push against abuse of the drug.
Polling released Thursday found fentanyl and other opioid drugs are a top public health concern for many Americans, with Republicans ranking it as the biggest threat to U.S. public health and Democrats including it in their top three (with obesity and firearm access).
Overall, more than 1 in 4 Americans, 26 percent, in the Axios-Ipsos survey listed opioids and fentanyl as the No. 1 threat to U.S. public health. That topped the percentage who listed obesity (21 percent), access to firearms (17 percent), cancer (12 percent) and COVID-19 (6 percent) as the biggest current threat.
Worries over the drug are widely shared. President Biden in his State of the Union address called for a collective effort from Congress and the private sector to help stop the trafficking and distribution of fentanyl.
At the start of the 118th Congress, a slew of bills were introduced to target fentanyl-related offenses as well as the scheduling of the opioid and its analogues, which are altered versions of the prescription form of fentanyl that can have a deadly effect.
Fentanyl analogues are currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, but this designation is temporary.
Several members of Congress have called for this classification to be made permanent, and at least two bills have been introduced by Republicans this year that would enforce this.
And Democrats seem poised to gather their efforts in taking action against fentanyl.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) called on her Democratic colleagues to “step up” on the issue earlier this month, stating border patrol needed more funding to address an influx of the drug.
Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), founder of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, said in a discussion with Axios that she had her eye on recovery and addiction treatment as well as stopping the drug’s importation into the country.
Kuster held back on endorsing any changes to fentanyl’s scheduling, noting the drug still has a “legitimate purpose” in health care.