Portman Highlights Devastating Impact of Heroin Epidemic, Urges Senate Colleagues to Act

April 6, 2017 | Press Releases

Portman Discusses the Importance of Acting Quickly on the Bipartisan STOP Act & the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Yesterday, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) continued his efforts to address the growing crisis of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs entering our country, sending a letter to President Trump urging him to prioritize this crisis in his upcoming discussions with the Chinese President, and taking to the Senate floor to detail the devastating impact it is having on Ohio and the country. In his speech, Portman urged his colleagues to pass his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to help stop deadly drugs from being shipped from overseas to drug traffickers here in the U.S, as well as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which will help stop overprescribing.

Excerpts of the speech can be found below and you can watch the video here


“The newest threat is this synthetic fentanyl is coming into our communities from countries, particularly China. There are laboratories in China where evil scientists are putting together these concoctions and sending them through the U.S. mail system into our communities. China is doing it on a scale that is devastating to our communities. As a result, I have urged President Trump to prioritize this issue in his meeting with President Xi in Florida later this week. China has banned one synthetic form of heroin, carfentanil recently, but there is a lot more to do. I am urging President Trump to make it clear to President Xi that we will do everything we need to do to keep this poison out of our communities.”


Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death, the leading cause, in my home state of Ohio and probably in your state and in our country. This is from 2015, the most recent year for which we have complete data. Nearly two-thirds of the deaths were because of this prescription pain killer, heroin, fentanyl issue, synthetic forms of heroin. Overdoses kill more Americans than guns do. This next chart will show that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015 than died from AIDS, HIV-AIDS at the height of that epidemic...in 1995… According to an article in The New York Times, more than four times as many people are dying every day from this epidemic than were dying at the peak of the crack epidemic. In the last three years, more Americans have died of drug overdoses than died in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, we have got reasons to believe that this crisis is getting worse, not better.”


Let’s do a better job of stopping the fentanyl, this new synthetic heroin that’s causing so many overdoses and deaths, let’s do a better job of keeping that out. This should be a no-brainer, in my view, because it’s coming in through the U.S. mail system. We know this. All the studies show this. Most of these synthetic drugs are being made in labs in China and then shipped by mail to traffickers in the United States, sometimes to Mexico as well. Typically that is done through the Postal Service. Why? Because the private carriers like UPS or FedEx or DHL and others, they require, when you ship something, that you have advance information provided through Customs and Border Protection and to others as to where the package is from, what’s in it, and where it’s going. The post office doesn’t require that. Any wonder that traffickers are using the postal system rather than one of these private carriers?  Law enforcement came to us and told us that they could use this data. It’s electronic data provided up front because that would enable them to determine the suspect packages out of millions of packages that come into our country.  They have to know how to find that needle in the haystack. That’s why they want the ability to find these packages, to scan these packages and to be able to stop some of this poison coming into our communities. 

“The legislation we have with regard to this issue is called the STOP Act. I have recently introduced it again this year with Senator Klobuchar, Senator Rubio, Senator Hassan and many others here in the chamber. It’s a bipartisan bill called the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, the STOP Act. It closes this loophole we talked about in the postal service and requires the post office to obtain advance electronic data on packages before they cross our borders just like the private carriers have to do. It’s not a new idea, by the way. In 2002, Congress placed this requirement on private carriers. That’s when it started. It also required that the post office review this and look into this. So in 2002, this Congress was smart enough to say this seems to make sense. Let’s require the post office to look into it. Well, we have seen the results. The result is traffickers stay away from the private carriers because they know they can use the postal service and get away with it.”


I urge my colleagues to continue to support the CARA legislation. Let’s provide full funding. Let’s support the CURES legislation in the upcoming appropriations process. Let’s continue to engage the good folks back home who are trying at the tip of the spear to do all they can in terms of providing better treatment opportunities, better longer term recovery to go into our schools and talk about prevention, to do all we can to be able to keep people from going into that funnel of addiction. And let’s do pass this legislation. Join us in keeping better track of pain killer prescriptions so that potentially addictive drugs don’t end up in the wrong hands and that addictions get treated early. That legislation is important. Join me and join the 10 other senators in pushing back against the poisonous synthetic heroins coming into our communities by supporting the STOP Act as a cosponsor so we can get this bill to the floor and get it to the president for his signature. I believe these two pieces of legislation, if allowed on the floor, would pass overwhelmingly. I believe the president would sign them. And most importantly, I believe they would begin to save lives in the communities we all represent.”