Stopping the flow of drugs at the border will help curb the opioid and drug abuse epidemic


By Mike Walker, DeWitt County Sheriff

Earlier this year, border agents made the country’s largest fentanyl bust on record, seizing 254 pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine (“meth”) at a border checkpoint in Nogales, Arizona. The drugs were seized in a routine traffic stop of a semi tractor-trailer driven by a twenty-six-year-old Mexican man. The truck was loaded with cucumbers – and $4.6 million in drugs that could kill more than 100 million people.

The crisis at the border is fueling the nation’s opioid and drug abuse epidemic. Halfway through this year, border agents had seized more than 2,000 pounds of fentanyl, enough to poison the entire U.S. population. Even more of this deadly drug, and other substances like meth and heroin, are getting through the border and trafficked throughout the country. Every corner of the nation has been affected by the drug abuse crisis, even right here in Central Illinois.

Drug overdoses are now the number one public health crisis in the country. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase, and every facet of our country is being affected by the epidemic. Deaths are up among men, women, and across all races and ages. In fact, more Americans died in one year from drug overdoses than car accidents, H.I.V., and gun deaths combined.

These deadly drugs are more lethal than ever before. The synthetic opioid fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin, and the substance can be deadly in a dose as small as a few grains of salt. Some variations of the drug have been used as an elephant tranquilizer and can be 5,000 times stronger than heroin. Seventeen people overdosed and one person died the day the drug hit the streets of Akron, Ohio. Even trace amounts have been known to send law enforcement and first responders to the hospital and have caused unsuspecting users to overdose after consuming counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.

These drugs are flowing into the country because Chinese drug smugglers and Mexican drug cartels see America’s addiction crisis as a lucrative business opportunity. Chinese drug manufacturers are the largest producers of fentanyl in the world, and they often work with Mexican cartels to smuggle the drugs across the border and traffic them throughout the U.S. Overdose deaths from prescription opioids and heroin have fallen in recent years, but deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have skyrocketed, increasing 520 percent.

Two years ago, in October 2017, President Trump declared a national health emergency to fight the drug addiction epidemic, and since that declaration, progress has been made in curbing the crisis. A bipartisan consensus has emerged to bolster treatment, educate the public about addiction, and revamp our law enforcement efforts against drug traffickers who are driving this crisis. Congressman Rodney Davis and other members of congress on both sides of the aisle should be commended for their leadership in working across party lines to tackle the important issue, but because of partisan gridlock and political infighting in Washington, the larger border crisis remains an unsolved issue.

To curb the drug abuse epidemic in our communities, we have to solve the border crisis that is allowing deadly drugs to flow into the country. Just last year, Nebraska state troopers seized 118 pounds of fentanyl – enough lethal doses to kill 26 million people – more than 1500 miles from Mexico. What was once a distant, far-away epidemic is a growing crisis in communities far from the border. That includes DeWitt County and Central Illinois. Law enforcement at every level in the region will continue to fight the opioid and drug abuse epidemic, but we will only be successful when the flow of drugs into the country is stopped before they get to our communities.