As State Officials Testify About Damaging Effects of Opioid Crisis, ASAP Calls on Congress to Close Drug Pipeline in Mail

Security Gap in Global Postal System Allows Deadly Synthetic Drugs from Abroad into Local Communities

Washington, D.C. – Today, officials from four states – Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky – testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee on the rising death toll of the opioid epidemic and the increasing prevalence of synthetic opioids. As the committee examines state and national solutions to address this unprecedented health crisis, Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP) urges Congress to cut off a major pipeline of deadly synthetic drugs by closing a loophole in the global postal system.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids flowing into the U.S. can be traced to foreign countries such as China, yet every day over 1 million packages reach the United States through foreign posts without important electronic security data that would allow law enforcement officials to screen and stop deadly material. This data is required for shipments through private carriers, but not for packages sent through the global postal network, providing an accessible route for foreign bad actors to ship drugs across our borders. Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP), a bipartisan coalition of health care advocates, national security experts, businesses and nonprofits, calls on representatives seeking to address the opioid crisis to support the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, legislation that would close this loophole by requiring data on all packages shipped from abroad.

We’re seeing the impact of the drug pipeline provided by this loophole in our local communities. As today’s testimonies made clear, each of the states represented have felt the tragic impact of the synthetic opioids that enter the country from abroad. A snapshot of this impact is below:

  • Virginia: “2016 saw a 175% increase in fentanyl related deaths (616 of 1,133 opioid deaths in Virginia).  But it is not only the deaths which must concern us…we must also have the resources to limit the supply of illegal opioids into our state, target those pill mills and dealers whose actions are creating the addiction cycle, and interdict the influx of precursors and internet predators from countries such as China.”
  • Rhode Island: “In 2013, Rhode Island had the highest rates of illicit drug use in the nation, as well as the highest rate of drug overdose in New England, and in 2015 had the fifth highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation… Deaths associated with illicit drug use and fentanyl have increased exponentially in recent years.”
  • Kentucky: “Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, was detected in 47% of overdose deaths, up from 34% in 2015. According to the Kentucky State Police, there was a 6,000% increase in laboratory samples submitted to the Central Forensic Laboratory testing positive for fentanyl from 2010 to 2016.”
  • Maryland: “Cheap, powerful and deadly synthetic opioids have burst onto the market, bringing with them higher overdose rates and even more devastation…Deaths related to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, have increased from 29 in 2012 to 1,119 in 2016.”

At the hearing, Kentucky Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet John Tilley spoke to Congress on the STOP Act, saying: “I know you’re very well aware of the STOP Act and the issue of keeping fentanyl and carfentanil out of our country,” and noting that the bill would help combat the drug cartels who profit off of flooding the country with these drugs.

“These states are among the many that have been hit hard by the synthetic opioids that enter our country through the global postal system,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to ASAP. “As officials at the state and local level work to address treatment, prevention and recovery, it’s vital for Congress to take action that stops these deadly drugs from entering our homes and communities in the first place.”

“From state to state, we are seeing the same tragic headline on the rising number of deaths in the opioid epidemic,” said Governor Tom Ridge, senior advisor to ASAP. “Any solution to address the crisis must cut off the flow of this poison, and we urge Congress to act now and close this loophole.”

The STOP Act, introduced in February, has growing bipartisan support, with 18 co-sponsors in the Senate and 193 in the House of Representatives. The bill has also been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and American Medical Association (AMA), who agree that closing the postal loophole will help those fighting on the front lines of this crisis.