Health Care

DEA taking new action in opioid fight

Fentanyl, as well as a number of powerful derivatives like carfentanil, was already a scheduled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Legally prescribed fentanyl is now classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it is highly addictive but has a medical goal.

The DEA had announced this week that a record-breaking 912,305 pounds - or 456 tons - of potentially risky expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs were collected during the eighth annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day event last month.

Naming illicit fentanyl as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, means that is addictive and has no medicinal goal.

"Overseas chemical manufacturers, aided by illicit domestic distributors, now attempt to evade regulatory controls by creating structural variants of fentanyl that are not directly listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)", explained the DOJ in a press release.

The newly announced emergency scheduling of the fentanyl analogues is only temporary, but the DEA can take such a step if the public is facing an imminent safety threat.

That approach has led to a "game of whack-a-mole", one Justice Department official said on Thursday, because criminals are able to simply make another molecular tweak and concoct a new version of the drug that is not listed in the schedule.

Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug, considered by the DEA to have a high potential for abuse, potentially leading to psychological or physical addiction.

That classification will let prosecutors charge people trafficking substances similar to fentanyl with the same charges as fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. "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".

The scheduling will go into effect 30 days after DEA officially publishes its notice of intent, and will remain in effect for at least two years, with an option for an additional year if certain conditions are met. Sessions called on Congress to "do their part by permanently scheduling these lethal substances".



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