Bill adding criminal penalties on fentanyl abuse could be amended

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Bill adding criminal penalties on fentanyl abuse could be amended

Abusing highly addictive opioid substance will be a criminal act with punishment of minimum five-year prison term, if someone is caught with even a half a gram of fentanyl. The same substance is held responsible for killing music star Prince. New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte offers amendments to the bill. Fentanyl is used in hospitals to treat severe pain.

The danger of the fentanyl is well known and confirmed. The drug has caused much fatality with its overdose in recent years in especially in New England. Those in their mid-40s to mid-60s are more likely to be prescribed opioids with benzodiazepines. Both drugs can hamper breathing and mixing them is dangerous.

Advocates are debating over whether to give fentanyl a status of criminal justice crisis or a public health emergency. The debate will turn to Capitol Hill next week, when the Senate will consider the National Defense Authorization Act and the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday about deadly synthetic drugs.

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A group of lobbyists and interest groups, which have been forcing Congress for years to reduce penalties for drug crimes, call the proposal by Ayotta a huge step backward. "There's a strong push to do criminal justice reform for drug-related crimes. This flies in the face of all of that", said Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has been used in the operating room for decades as a painkiller. Fentanyl use has increased significantly in the Northeastern US over the past two years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is believed that fentanyl is 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin. This makes it an important target for those who distribute drug illegally.

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