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 prosecute offenders who are intentionally subverting the law and knowingly putting users’ lives at risk, and we hope that other states will act quickly to introduce similar legislation.”

Wesch also calls for improved tracking and communication systems that would make it easier for toxicologists, health officials and law enforcement agencies to share their findings as new analogs are discovered. In addition, she believes awareness and education campaigns are essential to help the public understand the risks of fentanyl and its analogs, which are often mixed with heroin or pressed into counterfeit prescription opioid pills.

“Individuals with opioid use disorders may not realize the extreme danger fentanyl poses, or they may be unaware that other drugs are increasingly likely to be adulterated with fentanyl analogs,” said Wesch. “Beyond educating them on the risks, we also need to expand access to opioid detox and treatment programs. By helping those with substance use disorders overcome opioid addiction and dependency, we can reduce the chance of them ever coming into contact with fentanyl and its lethal analogs—and by curtailing demand for these potent drugs, we can minimize the public health risk of accidental exposure. Collectively, these measures will ultimately bring us one step closer to solving America’s opioid epidemic.”

Novus provides medically supervised opioid treatment programs that feature individualized care and an emphasis on sustainable sobriety. In addition to its 31-bed inpatient treatment center near Tampa Bay, Novus will soon be opening a new 41-bed detox facility in West Palm Beach. For more information on Novus Detox Center and its opioid treatment programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.

About Novus Detox Center:

Novus Detox Center is soon to be operating two inpatient medical detox facilities that are licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families and have earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation. Renowned for its pioneering approach to Sustainable Sobriety™, Novus provides safe and effective alcohol and drug detox programs that combine next-generation treatment protocols, 24/7 medical supervision and integrated, individualized care. By conditioning the body and mind to re-imagine a fulfilling, drug-free future, Novus empowers patients on their journey to recovery and creates a solid foundation for long-term success. Novus is committed to leading the way in patient experience, both as a detoxification expert and a supportive partner in ongoing health and wellness, and is dedicated to pushing industry standards forward. The original Florida detox facility is located in New Port Richey (outside Tampa) and another will be opening in West Palm Beach; both feature a wide range of amenities, delicious and healthy meals, and a relaxing, spa-like environment to ensure the withdrawal process is as stress-free and comfortable and as possible. For more information on Novus’ medically supervised detox programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.

1.    Stein, Jason. “Wisconsin Senate Passes Ban on Deadly Synthetic Versions of Fentanyl”; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; October 31, 2017. jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/31/wisconsin-senate-takes-up-bill-ban-deadly-synthetic-versions-fentanyl/807520001/

2.    “Governor Walker Signs Bill Banning Synthetic Types of Fentanyl”; announcement posted on website of Scott Walker, Office of the Governor; November 3, 2017. walker.wi.gov/press-releases/governor-walker-signs-bill-banning-synthetic-types-fentanyl

3.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Provisional Counts of Drug Overdose Deaths; August 6, 2017. cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/monthly-drug-overdose-death-estimates.pdf

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