Will stricter penalties reduce drug overdose deaths?

Photo courtesy: cnn.com

Florida is one of several states coping with the worst drug overdose crises in U.S. history, and state lawmakers are hoping to address the ongoing opioid tragedy.

House Bill 1359 and its companion, Senate Bill 1226, hope to reduce drug overdose cases by requesting stricter penalties for drug offenders. This law requires mandatory prison sentencing for people who sell, manufacture, deliver or possess fentanyl with intent to sell.

Fentanyl is a synthetic pharmaceutical opioid used for treating severe pain and treated for specific cancer treatments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this drug is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

This opioid works with the brain to control pain and emotions. The effects include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, addiction and respiratory depression. The list continues with more health-related issues.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the drug is popular among college students aged 19-24. Some college students support the stricter penalties in legislation being considered.

Garriona Lucas, a sophomore pharmacy major at Florida A&M, says she couldn’t be happier to know officials are considering the consequences of illegal fentanyl distribution.

“I’m happy that state officials are finally cracking down on the minimum sentencing for fentanyl distribution,” she said. “As pharmacy students, we learn about all the essential and critical side effects of addictive medications. It only takes a small lethal dose of fentanyl to kill someone.” Lucas said that no one deserves to lose their life because of a drug laced with a hard narcotic drug.

Mexico is known to be the supplier for the medical use of fentanyl in doctors’ offices and hospitals. However, China is responsible for over 90 percent of the illicit fentanyl in the United States, causing countless deaths.

Maryland Congressman David Torne has supported ending fentanyl for years. Torne tried to start a petition called “End Fentanyl Act,” a bill intended to strengthen border enforcement in combatting the flow of fentanyl into the United States.

“Far too many Americans have lost loved ones to opioid overdoses, and millions suffer from substance use disorder. Working together, we must do everything we can to stem the flow of illicit fentanyl into our communities,” Torne said on Dec. 13, 2022, in an interview with a local CBS station.

On Wednesday, the legislation relating to stricter penalties for fentanyl distribution was approved by both Senate and House committees.