Wisconsin’s New Fentanyl Analog Ban Will Save Lives

Fentanyl-related overdoses were responsible for 145 deaths in Milwaukee alone this year as of late October.(1) On November 3, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker enacted Assembly Bill 335, which outlaws fentanyl analogs and establishes criminal penalties for manufacturers and dealers of these synthetic opioids.(2) Novus Detox Center, a preeminent Florida-based drug treatment provider, praises Wisconsin’s efforts to halt rising fentanyl-related overdose deaths and advocates for other states to adopt similar laws.

In recent years, Wisconsin has experienced a significant increase in overdose deaths linked to fentanyl and its analogs. Milwaukee County recorded 97 fentanyl-related overdose fatalities in 2016, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that number is expected to double to nearly 200 overdose deaths by the end of this year.(1) This rapid increase echoes a national trend, with annual overdose fatalities from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids more than doubling over the course of a single year, rising from 9,945 to 20,145 deaths as of January 2017.(3) Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 times stronger than heroin and can be lethal in doses as small as 2 milligrams;(1) in fact, police officers and first responders have exhibited overdose symptoms after accidental fentanyl exposure.

Illicit drug manufacturers have been modifying the chemical structure of fentanyl to create new and more powerful analogs that can be difficult to detect and prosecute, prompting Wisconsin legislators to draft a bill that outlaws both known fentanyl analogs and any future modifications.(1) The new law adds all fentanyl analogs to the list of Schedule I controlled substances and classifies the possession, manufacture, distribution or delivery of any fentanyl analog as a felony.(2)

“Fentanyl analogs have been challenging to regulate, since new variations with altered chemical structures are emerging all the time,” explained Bryn Wesch, CEO of Novus Detox Center. “Toxicology tests can miss new analogs if medical examiners don’t know to look for them, and law enforcement can’t prosecute dealers if specific formulations are not explicitly outlawed. This legal loophole has exacerbated the fentanyl epidemic and contributed to steadily rising overdose fatalities. Wisconsin’s new bill makes it much easier to…

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