This letter features reporting from  “Fentanyl Is Making Its Way Into Various Drugs Sold in the U.S. Here’s How It Gets There” by Monica Villamizar, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Dear Congresswoman Sherrill,

Heroin can be lethal with thirty milligrams. Fentanyl can kill you with just three.

As the years pass by, drugs are increasingly abused and this has been posing a terrible detriment to America. These drugs include heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and many more. Recently, a new drug, commonly referred to as fentanyl, has become popular. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is more potent than any other drug. To put this in perspective, fentanyl is almost 100 times more powerful than morphine. This drug was first used to help hospitalized patients in generally acute and immense pain, pain that cannot be helped with regular morphine or opioids. However, as more of the general population learns about fentanyl’s power, the drug is being obtained illegally and abused at alarmingly high rates. To make matters worse, there is not enough awareness about fentanyl and how it affects humans. In a video titled “Fentanyl Is Making Its Way Into Various Drugs Sold in the U.S. Here’s How It Gets There,” Monica Villamizar of PBS interviewed many experts in the field of fentanyl addiction, highlighting just how prevalent this matter is becoming. Through dialogue, viewers can learn how this prohibited drug is killing thousands of people and being smuggled through the US-Mexico border by illegal cartels.

Although this drug is being primarily smuggled to Arizona, it is being distributed throughout the country, and even to our area. In fact, it isn’t purely fentanyl that is killing people, but the “commonly” abused drugs that are now being laced with fentanyl that is killing people. This is happening without the user’s knowledge. In just 7 years, New Jersey's yearly death toll due to drugs has increased by about 2,000, a number that has seen its steepest increase in recent years.

This number may seem small but just two years ago I personally was affected when an eighth-grader in my school overdosed and died. Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine already take the lives of so many residents in New Jersey but with the introduction of fentanyl, the number of drug-related deaths is increasing rapidly.

To be blunt, law enforcement cannot do enough to stop the use of drugs however, I urge you, Congresswoman Sherrill, to take measures to destigmatize drug users and take a serious initiative on this significant problem. It might seem trivial to think about this when currently COVID-19 is ravaging the world and in New Jersey, we have just under 28,000 deaths. However, with the number of drug-related deaths, increasing more with fentanyl, we are averaging an additional 3,500 deaths per year. The use of Fentanyl will continue to increase if action is not taken. New Jersey’s drug paraphernalia law includes testing equipment, which means that if a person is found with drug testing equipment, they are automatically assumed to possess drugs, affecting them to the same extent as someone who is found intoxicated. Drug test equipment like fentanyl test strips, or FTS, allows drug users to determine whether the drugs they are taking are laced with fentanyl. It is preposterous to think that under current New Jersey law, to possess an FTS would incriminate a person who is simply trying to be safe. Congresswoman Sherrill, this would be the first and most important step in keeping drug users safe. Further, you must take steps to destigmatize drug users as this is what forces them to perform unsafe methods of drug administration and acquire unreliable drugs such as those blended with fentanyl. At your level in the legislative body, you have the power to take small measures that are paramount to the safety of drug users. With your support, New Jersey can help its citizens live longer and safer lives and push itself, as a state, to a cleaner and more secure future.


Arathi Siluveru 

Arathi Siluveru is a sophomore in high school at the Morris County School of Technology in Denville, New Jersey. Wanting to pursue a career in medicine, Arathi is currently a part of the Academy of Healthcare Sciences in this school. She has a keen interest in neurology and enjoys writing. In her free time, Arathi enjoys going on hikes, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

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