In schools across Texas, dorm hallways and school bulletin boards are now adorned with grim messages. Next to flyers promoting the basketweaving club and the Harry Styles concert are flyers warning students of the deadly effects of fentanyl. In Hayes County, four children lost their lives after consuming a lethal amount of the drug. One of the students, a 17-year-old named Kevin, decided to get high one night during the first week of school. Unbeknownst to him, the drugs he was taking were laced with fentanyl. Kevin overdosed.
The problem is not limited to Hays County, or even Texas. Fentanyl is No. 1 cause of overdose deaths in the United States. But why does fentanyl have such a devastating effect on our youth? The answer lies in the extreme potency of the drug, as well as its popularity with Mexican cartels.
Mexican cartels primarily smuggle heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States. However, these drugs are expensive and time consuming to make, as well as requiring a large volume of the drug to provide the desired effect. Take heroin, for example. Growing, processing, and refining the drug requires labor, land, and good weather. One kilogram of heroin costs anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to produce.
By contrast, fentanyl is 50 times as potent as heroin. It requires no farms or farmers and one kilogram costs just $300 to make. Given the potency of the drug — a lethal dose is just two milligrams, about the size of a pencil tip — $300-worth of the drug can result in the death of approximately 500,000 people.
Using the smuggling networks already in place, Mexican cartels can smuggle thousands of kilograms of fentanyl much more cheaply than any other drug. Fentanyl can also be laced into other drugs, saving the cartels thousands of dollars in land and labor costs.
But why is our nation’s youth being so drastically impacted? The answer is twofold. Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine are being laced with fentanyl in deadly doses. While these drugs are still dangerous on their own, the laced drugs are even more so. Teens and young adults are taking the poisoned drugs, not knowing that they are consuming a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl.
Cartels are also using pill presses to shape the fentanyl into carbon copies of common pharmaceutical drugs like Adderall, Xanax, and oxycodone. The imitation is often so good that drug enforcement agents cannot tell if a pill is legitimate without testing it. To make matters worse, the cartels have started adding colors to different pills to make the drugs more attractive to younger swathes of the population.
Overdoses have soared in America’s school children at such a rate that some public schools, including those in Texas, are now requiring nurses to stock naloxone, also known as Narcan, for potential fentanyl overdoses.
The wave of fentanyl entering the United States shows no sign of slowing. In 2022, more than 6,668 kilograms of fentanyl were smuggled in the United States. Since a lethal dose is of fentanyl could kill every American citizen 10 times over.
While the fentanyl crisis is not a new problem at the border, it is undoubtedly worsened by the disastrous border policies of the current administration. The United States has lost control of its border. The Mexican cartels determine who (and what) gets sent across. And what crosses the border does not stay at the border.
The federal government is responsible for securing America’s borders and protecting the American people, and it has failed.