Last week in Connecticut, just a couple states away from Maine, bodies started dropping to the ground on what was a nice day in the park. Before the day was over, more than 70 people had overdosed on synthetic marijuana laced with a scary killer drug called fentanyl.

This “mass casualty event” on the New Haven Green, a park near Yale University, shut the city down. The city’s hospitals and police force fought valiantly to keep up with the number of incoming seriously ill people, especially because it wasn’t clear what was happening given the speed and force of the drug.

Some of the 70 people had to be taken to the hospital multiple times after being revived and brought back to the park. Some were so far gone that they didn’t respond to initial administration of naloxone, a drug that first responders rely on to reverse overdoses. Miraculously, no one died.

And Maine is not immune to what happened in New Haven. In fact, it’s getting more likely.

I know that this nightmare scenario will happen more and more often because we are facing a tidal wave of one of the strongest drugs ever seen on our streets. Those people in New Haven thought they were using essentially man-made marijuana, which has its own set of risks, but they really were rolling the dice on one of the strongest drugs anyone could possibly ingest.

You’ve heard about the number of heroin overdoses Maine has been seeing. In fact, a recent study showed that we’re seeing a faster rise in overdose deaths than almost any other state in the country. It’s an awful, cruel, and heart-breaking trend. That same study showed that we are seeing more fentanyl overdoses deaths in our state than heroin overdose deaths for the first time.


In my years as a police officer and DARE officer I’ve seen plenty of reckless behaviors that terrified me. In this case, however, we are dealing with something that we aren’t quite equipped to understand. Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin — an amount of fentanyl the size of three grains of salt is enough to kill a human. There have been plenty of reports of massive fentanyl busts where traffickers are in possession of enough fentanyl to literally wipe out cities.

That’s why it’s time for a full-on assault on fentanyl coming into our country. I want to be clear: we are facing a drug threat unlike any we’ve ever seen, and the vast majority, according to the DEA, is coming from China and Mexico.

Putting serious resources into cracking down on foreign fentanyl coming into our country is an idea with bipartisan support.

In fact, President Donald Trump recently tweeted: “It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!”

He’s right. The bipartisan STOP Act would give the U.S. Postal Service more resources to screen for fentanyl coming into the country through the mail. The bill is cosponsored by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, so they’re right on the mark.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, recently said that fentanyl should be the No. 1 issue discussed during bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and China.

The senators are looking at this threat with clear eyes and I wish them success, because our kids depend on it. Maine should follow their lead and make sure that taking this weaponized chemical off the streets, along with increased treatment, prevention, and education, is our focus.

If we don’t act to stop fentanyl at our borders, I fear that we will soon be overwhelmed.

Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, represents District 16 in the Maine Senate.

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