DEA adds fentanyl variants to schedule along with other illegal drugs

Alicia Farmer
November 10, 2017

"When the DEA's order takes effect, anyone who possesses, imports, distributes, or manufactures any illicit fentanyl analogue will be subject to criminal prosecution in the same manner as for fentanyl and other controlled substances".

In a joint effort, the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced they will allow federal prosecutors to now charge people who traffic fentanyl analogues or synthetics as if they were true forms of fentanyl.

"Overseas chemical manufacturers, aided by illicit domestic distributors, now attempt to evade regulatory controls by creating structural variants of fentanyl that are not directly listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)", explained the DOJ in a press release. "By scheduling all fentanyls, we empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to take swift and necessary action against those spreading these deadly poisons".

In his statement, Sessions also urged Congress to make the new classification permanent.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015.

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The Trump administration is taking steps to make it easier to prosecute traffickers of potent synthetic opioids that have lead to an uptick in overdose deaths.

The department says some 20,000 of last year's 64,000 drug overdose deaths can be blamed on fentanyl, either pure or mixed with other drugs such as heroin or prescription opioids.

In October, federal prosecutors charged two Chinese nationals who sold fentanyl to Americans over the Internet in a large worldwide conspiracy case.

"The scheduling action that we anticipate will have different ways that the fentanyl molecule can be altered - four points in our scheduling action will be covered", an official said on the call. This creates fentanyl analogues not technically scheduled but which still produce the same powerful and unsafe high. A Justice official described the effort as way to stop the unsafe "Whac-A-Mole" game being played when manufacturers and distributors tweak the chemical structure of fentanyl to evade the law. Officials hope the new move will thwart those efforts. "This. action gets us ahead of the chemists, ahead of the dealers, who would engage in this mad chemistry to avoid controlled substances".

The temporary scheduling can last up to two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

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