Q: What do parents need to know about “rainbow” fentanyl?
A: As students headed back to school, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an alert about candy-colored, “rainbow” fentanyl produced and marketed by the drug cartels to entice young people. When parents across America tuck their kids in at night, remember words matter. Don’t let the long day behind you keep you from taking a moment to share a lifesaving lesson for the day ahead. It’s more important than ever to teach the next generation about the dangers of drugs. It truly will save lives. Overdose deaths are on the rise and destroying tens of thousands of families across America. Last year, the U.S. reached the highest overdose deaths on record, nearly 108,000 people died from overdose in 2021. Two-thirds of those deaths are attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Last year, Iowa set its own record: 470 Iowans died of a drug overdose, and 44 people who died were younger than age 25. That means Iowa had a 120 percent spike in overdose deaths in that age group. What’s happening? Counterfeit pills are flooding into the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels. They are manufacturing fake pills and marketing them as legitimate prescription pills. Drug traffickers are taking advantage of the Biden administration’s failure to secure the border to funnel illicit drugs into our communities. Sophisticated crime rings are moving the highly potent pills around the country through a network of couriers and dealers and profiteering to the tune of billions of dollars. In Congress, I’m working to cut off the money laundering pipeline, as well as the drug trafficking pipeline at the border.
As co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I’m working with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to root out the corruption and money laundering schemes drug cartels use. They are profiting from immeasurable pain and suffering by peddling illicit poison. Last year, the DEA seized enough fentanyl powder to kill every American in the country. Disguised as prescription drugs, these pills may contain fentanyl or methamphetamine, and individuals think they’re taking a prescription opioid, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®) or alprazolam (Xanax®). Experts say just two milligrams may be lethal – imagine just 10-15 grains of table salt – may cause overdose symptoms within seconds of ingestion.
Parents, policymakers, educators, health care professionals and law enforcement officials must work together to protect the next generation. I’m answering the call from Iowa law enforcement and pleas from parents to do more at the policy table. I’m continuing to push the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress to extend the Schedule 1 for fentanyl analogues. Law enforcement needs every tool available to stop these dangerous drugs. I’ve also introduced the Stop Pills that Kill Act that stiffen penalties for counterfeit pill production.
Make it your business to get in your teenager’s business. Be sure they understand a pill they think is harmless could kill them. Know who they chat with online. Know they can buy deadly counterfeit pills on social media or other online platforms. Talk to other parents and talk to your kids. Educate yourself about fentanyl. Learn more and visit the DEA’s Fentanyl Awareness page.
Q: What’s Congress doing to crack down on criminal violence sweeping across America?
A: Calls by certain misguided elected leaders to “Defund the Police” had serious consequences. Americans are increasingly concerned about public safety as they go about their daily lives. Fewer police on the beat make our streets less safe. Lawlessness and reckless bail reforms in urban areas across the country are leading to increasingly violent crime across America. Murders and carjackings are on the rise. Demoralized law enforcement departments are struggling to recruit and retain police officers. Local police departments need more resources, not less funding to keep the peace and keep our communities safe. Last year, I helped steer to the president’s desk three bipartisan bills to boost support for local law enforcement. Earlier this year, I shepherded the Invest to Protect Act and the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act through the Senate to provide more resources for local police departments and set up mental health resources for first responders. Momentum is building for my bicameral bill the Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act, to strengthen laws on the books for violent offenses to help keep communities safe, including bank robbery, kidnapping, murder and a ban on marketing candy-flavored drugs to minors. I’m also working to renew the Project Safe Neighborhoods grant program that for two decades has helped local law enforcement fight crime through prevention and intervention in the neighborhoods where families work, go to school and run a business. The federal grant program is coordinated by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the 94 federal judicial districts. Applications for Iowa’s Project Safe Neighborhoods are due Sept. 28, 2022.