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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Thursday blamed China and Mexico for the record high fentanyl deaths in the United States and called for tighter border security to halt the transport of the synthetic opioid that has claimed thousands of American lives.
Portman joined “Special Report” Thursday as part of the show’s new series that spotlights the “poisoning of America” caused by the flow of fentanyl into the country.
“We focus a lot on the border because of the people coming across and last month was the most illegal entries ever again as it was in the previous month, but what we don’t talk about as much is the fact that a lot of drugs are coming as well,” Portman, who serves as ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Fox News host Bret Baier.
Border Patrol agents seized 1,100 pounds of fentanyl last month, which is enough to kill roughly 200 million Americans, Portman said.
The devastation of fentanyl hit close to home for the Senator, who was poised to deliver a commencement address at Ohio State University last month when he was notified that three students died from an Adderall pill they bought on the street that was laced with fentanyl.
“It was very sad, because my talk was going to be more inspiring about the future, but I had to include in that the fact that to all the parents and all the students that were there, you cannot trust any drug, any street drug,” Portman said.
Asked whether there is an imminent solution to prevent the death toll from rising, Portman outlined “three obvious” steps to curb overdoses in the U.S.
“One, is to tighten the border,” he said. ” This border problem is about contraband, it’s not just people. Specifically, it’s about this opioid, that is synthetic, that is deadly and causing about two-thirds of the opioid deaths in America.”
Portman also encouraged the White House to invest in a national media campaign to educate parents and teenagers about the dangers associated with fentanyl and street drugs.
“I think it’s worth spending some money by the administration to do a national media campaign,” he said. “We did it at one time and it was somewhat effective, Nancy Reagan was famous for that, but it’s a pretty obvious message which is simply, any drug that you can take can kill you.”
“It is being mixed in everything, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, but even antidepressants, Xanax and so on. So the message you can get out, and needs to get out urgently to save lives,” he said.
China remains the world’s primary source of fentanyl, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two techniques are used to deliver the drug to the U.S. It is either shipped to the U.S. directly via international mail or shipped via Mexico. Portman said he has “always felt that China was being irresponsible in how they dealt with the issue,” and called on other countries to pressure China and Mexico to “clean up their act.”
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