Wyatt Emmerich: Fentanyl makes street drugs deadly


Wyatt Emmerich



Tragedy has struck several Mississippi families recently. Young men in the prime of life have been victims of fentanyl poisoning.


Fentanyl is an elephant tranquilizer. It's 100 times more potent than morphine. It's being mixed with common street drugs and even marijuana. It is deadly, and it's killing our young people.


One victim was a friend of my son and the son of longtime friends. We are so blessed to live in a state where faith is strong, allowing us to endure tragedy knowing the resurrection awaits us all and we will soon be reunited with those we have lost.



Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said law enforcement has responded to 11 calls of drug overdosing this year. He said two of those calls resulted in death.


During a recent interview, McCutchen said, "There is a scary trend where you're seeing fentanyl in your local drugs. Out of a batch of 50 pills, there may be one with fentanyl, so you're rolling the dice every time you're doing this.


"We've seen it in what looks like pharmacy pain medicines. We've seen it in Xanax. Something as small as two grains of salt can kill you."


Drug dealers can triple their profit by cutting typical drugs with fentanyl. These drugs can be purchased over the Internet and mailed. Who knows where they come from or what's in them?


How could anyone be so cruel and heartless as to lace anything with fentanyl?


Outrage over the plague of drugs led to the War on Drugs, which began in the 1970s. Billions was spent to eradicate illegal drugs.


Unfortunately, the War on Drugs has failed. Drug use has risen steadly since then. Drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent decades, mainly due to synthetic opiates such as fentanyl.


Last year, 72,000 people died of overdose deaths in the United States. That's three times as many deaths compared to the previous decade. It's a plague.


Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for young people, even more than traffic accidents. It has risen so fast that it's causing our national life expectancy to drop for the first time in recent history.


So what is to be done? The War on Drugs increased the price of drugs, making the drug trade super lucrative. This gave rise to gang warfare and skyrocketing incarceration rates. Often, addicts ended up incarcerated rather than in treatment, destroying countless lives. One step forward, two steps back.


The march of technology has worsened the drug crisis. A drug dealer is just a text away. Drugs can be ordered online. Designer drugs have proliferated. There are more new synthetic drugs than enforcement agencies can keep track of, many of them deadly.


One thing we can all do is sound the alarm. Talk to your children, your friends, your neighbors about how street drugs have become deadly. It's like playing Russian Roulette.


Young people think marijuana is not that bad. But if it's laced with fentanyl, it's deadly. This changes everything.


The failure of the War on Drugs is not unlike our experience with Prohibition. Society saw the devastation of mass-produced alcohol, and we banned it.


Like the War on Drugs, Prohibition failed. Bootleggers arose to ensure ample supply. Corruption followed. An estimated 10,000 people died from ingesting bad moonshine. Eventually, alcohol became a culturally accepted drug.


Our inability to reconcile our mixed attitude toward liquor and other drugs was made famous by a young Mississippi legislator named Noah "Soggy" Sweat. During a speech at a banquet at the King Edward Hotel, Soggy said he was both for and against alcohol, depending on whether it was used for conviviality and good times or abused through addiction.


We battle mightily as a society over this issue because there is no clear answer what is the best course of action.


Our country was founded with the slogan, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." If a drink or joint allows a law-abiding citizen to enjoy a moment of pleasure, why should government try to control its citizens? This is a fundamental concept for libertarians.


For every alcoholic, there are far more people who can drink responsibly. The same is true of marijuana. Is it right to deny enjoyment to the many because a few people abuse a drug?


If so, where do you draw the line? Should all drugs be legal? Heroin? Meth? Cocaine?


If drugs were legal, would addicts be more likely to get treatment without the threat of arrest? Would toxic street drugs disappear? Could we regulate drugs in a less fatal way than the current black market?


If we legalize marijuana, would young people be more or less likely to try other drugs?


There is a big controversy right now on the question of whether legalization of marijuana has raised or lowered opioid deaths.


In the wake of skyrocketing opioid deaths, the trend is toward legalization and treatment rather than prison. Criminal justice reform passed both chambers of the legislature before being vetoed by the governor. Drug decriminalization was part of that.


Marijuana is now legal in 11 states. Medical marijuana is legal in all but 17 states. The issue is on the ballot in Mississippi in November. Strong opinions on both sides.


The trend seems to be inexorably toward adding THC to our list of over-the-counter legal drugs -- caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. We're probably just a few years away from federal marijuana legalization.


Why do we desire drugs? It's the same reason Adam ate the apple. We aren't happy with what we have. We want more. It's an insatiable human longing that will only be quenched by death. Such is the nature of human sin.


Government can't resist trying to solve this huge social problem. So far, it has failed to find a solution.


Ultimately, this is a individual battle. Our best weapon is prayer and faith. As our new flag states, in God we must trust. Only then will our insatiable appetites be quenched.




Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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