“Just two milligrams of fentanyl—roughly the weight of mosquito—is considered a lethal dose.”
WASHINGTON — Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) led a group of Alabama experts in a virtual roundtable to raise awareness about fentanyl during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. AL.com’s Ivana Hrynkiw moderated the discussion with professionals working on the frontlines of the state fentanyl crisis. Expert panelists were Shereda Finch, Executive Director of the Council on Substance Abuse, Sheriff Jay Jones, and UAB Addiction Specialist Dr. Stefen Kertesz. All of the panelists spoke on the dangers of drug abuse and fentanyl that they’ve witnessed in their respective fields, and how the fentanyl crisis can be addressed.
Excerpts from the event can be found below, and the full conversation between Senator Tuberville and the issue experts can be viewed here.
ON FENTANYL’S IMPACT
TUBERVILLE: “Our kids are dying right and left. This week is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, and the facts are a scary picture… Just two milligrams of fentanyl—roughly the weight of mosquito—is considered a lethal dose. Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it has stopped more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from entering our country. More than 150 Americans are dying every day, and mostly our kids.”
JONES: “One week in January here in Lee County alone, we saw seven instances where individuals had—as it turns out—taken overdose quantities of a drug. Fentanyl was involved in all seven. Two people recovered and five did not.”
KERTESZ: “The preliminary number of total deaths in 2022 from overdose of any kind is 440. There are seven more cases they’re investigating. Of those 440, 371 involved some kind of opioid, although, as I cautioned you before, that may be that the person was seeking methamphetamine or cocaine, and then they got hit with fentanyl. Just as for 2022, there were 12 deaths of people under the age of 25.”
ON POTENCY OF FENTANYL
TUBERVILLE: “How addictive is fentanyl? Is it like any other drug?”
KERTESZ: “It’s like any other drug that’s potent. With opioids in general, most people who attempt to use an opioid actually don’t develop an addiction. They just decide it’s not a good experience. Of course, the problem if you tried and what you started with was illicit fentanyl, you might be dead before you have the chance to say, ‘I’m not that interested in that experience.’ ”
ON MENTAL HEALTH AND DRUG ABUSE
TUBERVILLE: “Drugs is obviously a way out for a lot of people with mental health or depression. Even our vets—we lose 20 veterans a day because of suicide and some of it is fentanyl. And so, it’s important that I think we all understand our mental health problems are getting worse and worse.”
FINCH: “It’s just not a zip code drug. It’s not a socioeconomic drug. There are many people who are unsuspecting—dying—and they don’t have to die…And we have a lot of young people who are experiencing only mental health issues and other life experiences that we have to start to address.”
ON RAISING AWARENESS AMONG YOUTH
FINCH: “In Alabama, the age of substance initiation is about 12 to 13 years. What that means is that we have youth who are beginning a pattern.”
FINCH: “One of the benefits of our programs is we’re able to create environments that children and youth are able to talk about these issues and not only just be talked to, but be part of the solution. Some of the things that we need to solve really will involve the voice of our youth and our young adults on our college campuses.”
JONES: “There are times when ambulances don’t get there as quickly as you do and you’re responding officers. And Coach, referenced that I think very well. It’s about educating our young people. I mean, they simply think, ‘Nothing can happen to me.’ I don’t know of an agency in our region that hasn’t formed some type of organized drug crimes task force units that direct their attention to these specific issues. And a lot of it’s involving education of our young people, involving the enforcement actions, particularly everything we can do to intercept these substances before they get back into the public arena and can be consumed by those that are engaged in substance abuse.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.