U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Emergency Schedules All Illicit Fentanyls in an Effort to Reduce Overdose Deaths

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has officially placed all illicit fentanyl analogues, not already regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, into Schedule I—the category for substances with no currently accepted medical use—for two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension. This action is expected to reduce these substances’ flow into the country and slow the alarming increase in overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids.

The U.S. DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson had this to say of the change:

The DEA is committed to using all of its tools to aggressively fight and address the opioid crisis and growing fentanyl problem plaguing the United States. By proactively scheduling the whole class of illicit fentanyl substances simultaneously, federal agents and prosecutors can take swift and necessary action against those bringing this poison into our communities.

A fentanyl analogue is a substance intended for human consumption that is substantially similar in its chemical makeup and effects to fentanyls already listed in Schedule I. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin and other substances (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) or used in counterfeit pharmaceutical prescription drugs. As a consequence, users who buy these substances on the illicit market are often unaware of the specific substance they are actually consuming and the associated risk.

Anyone who possesses, imports, distributes, or manufactures any illicit fentanyl analogue will be subject to criminal prosecution in the same manner as for fentanyl and other controlled substances. This will make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances.

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