In Case You Missed It: Former Congressman Warns of Threat of Mail Order Fentanyl

Ernest Istook, a former U.S. representative from Oklahoma, has a new op-ed in the Washington Examiner focused on the role that illegally made fentanyl shipped and distributed internationally continues to play in the opioid crisis.


Istook warns that, despite numerous successful drug busts and government initiatives, massive amounts of toxic drugs are still “hidden within the immense volume of mail and delivery services, making them more difficult to intercept.” The op-ed renews calls on Congress and the Trump administration to crack down on the bad actors behind the crisis, including international traffickers profiting off the deaths of Americans.


One key element of these efforts, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, was passed by Congress one year ago this month and requires the U.S. Postal Service to properly provide Customs and Border Protection with advance electronic data (AED) needed to screen international packages for fentanyl and other dangerous shipments. AED is already required for international shipments sent through private carriers. Although the postal service needed to have AED on 100 percent of packages from China and 70 percent of international packages overall by December 2018, after almost one year these key deadlines have still not been met, and crucial reports to Congress on compliance are not public.

Read an excerpt below and the full op-ed at the Washington Examiner:

The fight against fentanyl is active but has a long way to go

By Ernest Istook

The good news is that law enforcement is intercepting some large-scale shipments of this deadly drug. The bad news is that massive amounts, broken into smaller shipments, are often hidden within the immense volume of mail and delivery services, making them more difficult to intercept. As the Treasury Department announced last month, “The most common distribution medium [used by China to ship fentanyl into America] is via the U.S. Postal Service.”

Fortunately, the Trump administration is acting on multiple fronts. One key reform is adding resources: The administration is now drafting an executive order to increase inspections of mailed packages, in an effort to crack down on illicit shipments.

Going even farther, in an Aug. 23 tweet President Trump proclaimed, “I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE, …. all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!)” Private carriers responded by saying they’re already doing this.

Additionally, the Trump administration announced $1.8 billion in new anti-opioid federal grants for states and the CDC. This follows $400 million already awarded to treat substance abuse and provide mental health services. Plus, authorities have shut down several dark web sites, the marketplaces often used to sell and purchase illegal fentanyl pills.

Despite these efforts, fentanyl persists as a bigger killer of Americans than guns or traffic accidents. The 130 daily deaths continue for two reasons: because the demand remains and because buyers think they’re getting prescription-grade goods instead of often-deadly counterfeits.