Republicans Are Lying About Fentanyl to Scare Voters

Fentanyl, a painkiller legal administered in emergency departments every day, is legal. “Fentanyl” is also a catch-all term for synthetic opioids fueling panic and misinformation about the overdose crisis — and a central theme of the GOP’s fearmongering midterm election strategy.

A recent appeal to voters was pannedCritics as “substance-free” in terms of concrete policy ideas, House Republicans decried an “out of control border” and claimed every state is now a “border state” under assault by fentanyl. Ahead of an expected reelection bid, former president Trump is once again railing about an “invasion” of “drug dealers” claiming “innocent victims,” a redux of the racist messaging on immigration that defined his first campaign.

Never mind that drug overdose deaths actually began rising under the Trump administration’s policies before shattering records once COVID hit, or that medical expertsNonpartisan fact-checkers routinely debunk GOP narratives portraying an increase in fentanyl seizures by law enforcement as evidence of an “open border.”

By wrongly conflating asylum seekers and President Joe Biden’s border policies with overdose deaths, Republicans hope to continue hammering Democrats as “soft” on “crime” and immigration (if only!) while whipping up fear among voters and anger in their nativist base. The GOP’s major attack lines ahead of the midterms are “open borders,” “fentanyl,” and “invasion,” and they are grounding those attacks in lies and disinformation, according to a national analysis of digital ads and campaigns published by America’s Voice, an immigration reform group.

The GOP’s rhetoric fits neatly into the grooves of the so-called “Great Replacement,” a deeply racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about liberal elites aiming to replace white, Christian Americans with people of color, Jews, Muslims and non-European immigrants. This distorted logic is promoted by right-wing commentators like Tucker Carlson on Fox News, President Joe Biden and the Democrats are allowing drugs produced in China and Mexico to cross the border and kill Americans while they are “replaced” by a non-white electorate.

In reality, most migrants attempting to cross border are seeking asylum after fleeing violence and poverty, and certainly aren’t smuggling fentanyl in their backpacks. There are many. statements dataFederal law enforcement shows that fentanyl is most commonly imported into the U.S. via trucks and passenger vehicles at legal ports. a majority of thoseTransporting fentanyl are U.S. citizens,People who are less likely attract the attention of border officers. They make migrants the focus of their hatred and obfuscate the facts.

Every day, thousands of workers, truck drivers, and travelers cross the U.S.-Mexico frontier through legal ports of entry. Federal border authorities are also present. reportedlyA $480 million investment was made to upgrade scanner equipment in order to identify vehicles containing fentanyl or other drugs. This is not all. billions of dollarsThe Biden administration announced that the annual budget was used to enforce drug laws. additional $275 millionIn April, funding was allocated to combat drug trafficking. Biden, facing baseless attacks by the right, has also issued a dangerous request for additional 100,000 police officers on the streets.

If Republicans had proposals beyond building Trump’s border wall and further restricting immigration — which would not stop fentanyl at legal ports of entry — they would probably look a lot like Biden’s: more policing. The U.S. has a solid policy of stopping drugs at its border, but this decades-old drug war approach to saving lives is clearly failing. The sharp increase in fentanyl seizures under both Trump and Biden has not prevented a record number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. (Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that fentanyl is far from the only drug behind the crisis; fatal overdoses involving stimulants are also on the rise, and overdoses often include alcohol or a combination of drugs.)

Experts warn that it is impossible to stop all drugs crossing the border. Traffickers and police are both a lucrative source of revenue. “cat and mouse game” for decades. Law enforcement efforts to disrupt the traditional heroin supply, crackdown on painkiller prescribing increased demand. Fentanyl is easier to smuggle in smaller packages because of its potency. Contrary to prescription painkillers that have a known dosage, counterfeit pills and other products containing Fentanyl can be stronger than the prescribed dose, which puts users at risk of overdose.

According to the U.S., overdose deaths from overdoses have been on the rise for more than a year. preliminary estimatesCenters for Disease Control. In July, the CDC confirmed massive racial disparities in the data from 2019 and 2020, when rates of fatal drug overdose skyrocketed by about 30 percent as COVID-19 roiled Trump’s final year in office. The CDC’s reportThe southern border is not mentioned. Instead, the CDC cites unequal access health care and addiction treatment fueled in part by stigmatization and bias against drug users, particularly if they are Black or poor.

These inequalities were reinforced when the pandemic isolated drug addicts from their family, friends, and health support systems. In the first year, the annual number of overdose deaths was more than 100,000. The CDC’s findings echo years of research showing that poverty, incarcerationOverdose is caused by racist policing, criminalization of drug addicts, and other factors. But, the response from policymakers as well as health care providers has not been equal.

According to the CDC, Black patients are less likely than whites to be able to access the best treatment for opioid addiction. This is why fatal overdose rates among Black men was seven times higher than that of white men. Among all Black and Hispanic people, overdose death rates grew fastest in local counties with the most income inequality — including in areas where addiction treatment has expanded. These findings echo the 2020 National Institutes of Health. studyIt is clear that Black people are not equally benefiting from investments in addiction treatment and healthcare to address the overdose crisis.

In a telephone conversation with reporters, CDC officials urged increased access to addiction treatment services and harm reduction services. Syringe exchange programs, which are medically proven safe to prevent overdose deaths or the spread of diseases, were mentioned by officials. Don’t expect to hear about this from Republicans, who have demonized lifesaving harm reduction services to score political points for years. Most recently, Republicans attacked the Biden administration’s extremely modest efforts to reduce overdose deaths by fund harm reduction services with memes falsely accusing the president of handing out “free crack pipes.”

Millions of people are affected by the overdose crisis. Viral drug panics provide a great topic for politicians. The GOP’s timing for putting “fentanyl” and “invasion” at the center of a midterm strategy appears intentional. Look no further than the viral misinformation regarding so-called “rainbow fentanyl,”These were found in law enforcement press releasesJust in time for Halloween candy panic, a misinformed media tradition dating back to the heightThe drug war of the 1980s.

As Kastalia Medrano writes at Filter, drug sellers are adding colors such as blue (aka “blues”) to the fentanyl pills that have replaced prescription painkillers and traditional heroin in many illicit markets, but not in order to lure “young Americans” as law enforcement claims (police are a persistent sourceOf misinformation about fentanylin the media Medrano says that the added colors will actually help people stay safe.

[BLOCK QUOTE] People who don’t use drugs really hate this idea, but drug sellers have done more to keep people safeMore people died in the drug war than any other person. The emergence of different colors of pressed pills alongside the blues won’t lure in younger buyers. If anything, it’ll help keep new buyers safe.

“For pain patients being cut off from access to pain medications because of deprescribing initiatives, they’re increasingly turning to street pills,” Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a harm reduction-based researcher at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Filter. “Fake pills that are clearly fake are helpful for them to know that what they’re getting is not the OxyCodone they’re used to, but something more potent.” [End Block]

Overdose deaths will not be reduced by trying to stop opioids and other drugs people depend on at their border. We must instead look for other strategies to save lives in a dangerous drug war and public health crisis. These strategies are often used by drug dealers and users. To help drug users and sellers avoid accidental overdoses, harm reduction professionals distribute fentanyl test strips.

Trump, on the other hand, is once again calling for “drug dealers” to face the death penalty, even after pardoningPeople convicted of drug trafficking in office. Like other Republicans — and even some Democrats — Trump hopes voters arrive at the ballot box with fear, not facts.