As the Biden administration’s open border policies contribute to the ongoing fentanyl crisis ravaging communities across the nation, State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) interviewed subject matter expert Dr. Jon Spiers.

“It is one of the scariest things we face,” said Spiers.

Background

Originally created in the 1950s and early 1960s due to the need for better pain medication, fentanyl (and Imodium) was created when Dr. Paul Janssen took Demerol, which had several problems, and broke it down into pieces.

“It’s very easy to make; and in fact, that is one of the reasons that fentanyl revolutionized cardiovascular anesthesia,” explained Spiers. “It was easy to make, it was short onset and had a predictable duration of effect, and it was inexpensive.”

Inexpensive and easy to make—those sound really good to a pharmaceutical company; they also sound really good to some bad guys.

Janssen patented fentanyl, and as all patents are filed with the United States Patent Office and made accessible to the public, a step-by-step guide to making fentanyl is available online.

With the exception of the occasional nurse or doctor, “for many years, nobody abused this drug,” said Spiers. “It was not trafficked on the street. In the Drug Enforcement Agency—I have spoken to agents about this—they said it was so deadly they could not conceive of anyone ever using it, and so no one did.”

This all changed in the 1990s when fentanyl started appearing on the streets. A high school graduate figured out how to manufacture fentanyl from the patent and began selling it.

“The entire spectrum of drug abuse changed,” said Spiers.

The Potency of Fentanyl

“Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin,” said Spiers. “Fentanyl is cheaper to manufacture than heroin.”

Spiers explained that the process to create heroin relies on labor, land, and weather, and “it costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to make a kilogram of heroin.”

How much does it take to make a kilogram of fentanyl?

“About $300.”

Synthetic fentanyl doesn’t require farms, farmers, or good weather, and all it takes to be deadly is about “three grains of sugar—that’s about the size of a pretty potent dose of fentanyl.” Spiers added, “In fact, for many of us, that would be a lethal dose.”

Just how easy is it?

According to Spiers, the only equipment needed is the patent instructions, some five-gallon buckets, a painter’s suit and mask, and a small tent for a lab.

Once you have the equipment, “you have to have the precursors next, and that’s something that was very difficult for people until China started sharing with the rest of the world.”

Since it is so cheap to manufacture, any lab can be packed up or abandoned at a moment’s notice.

Devastating Losses

“Almost 110,000 Americans died from synthetic opioids,” said Spiers, explaining that “‘synthetic opioids’ is kind of business-speak for fentanyl.”

Meanwhile, “66 percent or more of the deaths from drug overdoses and the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 and 45 is fentanyl. Someone dies from fentanyl probably every seven and a half minutes.”

Cartel Connections

Spiers related that his first exposure to the illegal use of fentanyl was when a woman being used as a drug mule swallowed some in a wrapper and it burst.

“A young woman came into the hospital, she had a tattoo on her chest which my nursing staff told me meant she was owned by a cartel,” explained Spiers. “She was dying. We operated on her [and] we were able to save her, but it just stunned me to see this. And knowing how deadly it was, to know that someone was taking this chance … it is truly an absolute scourge.”

Since fentanyl is so easy to make, it is also easy to alter, which poses a problem for drug enforcement.

Rather than attempt to maintain the illegality of every alteration as it occurred, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlawed an entire class of substances called fentanyl-related substances.

However, as the precursors “still come from China, they don’t come directly to the United States as often,” said Spiers. “They come from China to Mexico and, generally from there, right into the United States.”

He also said the cartels are getting smarter and “are actually doing the entire process themselves.” 

The China Connection

Since the precursors to fentanyl come from China, Spiers explained how creating fentanyl benefits the Chinese government.

“China is selling these drugs and providing a constant supply to the cartels, and China is our rival on the world stage,” said Spiers. “China does not really have the United States’ best interests at heart. We should recognize that they’re not a good neighbor, and they’re not a good partner, and they’re providing this to Mexico and the Mexican cartels.”

The cartels don’t care if we die; China doesn’t care. They don’t care if they kill your children. Human life is not important to them, it is just a commodity that they can buy, sell, and destroy.

The U.S. population is about 330 million people, and just in the last year, more than 11,000 pounds of fentanyl were smuggled into the country.

Spiers explained that since two to four milligrams is a lethal dose, 11,000 pounds could kill every American four times over.

How does it get here?

According to Spiers, there is a multitude of ways for fentanyl to be smuggled across the southern border due to the fact that a little bit can go a long way.

Oftentimes, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intercept smuggling operations that are occurring at the legal ports of entry—although not all. However, there is much more leeway between the ports of entry and Spiers says there’s really no telling just how much is coming through the desert.

Besides the physical hike across the desert, small and large drones, which can be bought from Amazon for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, can carry packages across the border.

What does it look like?

The typical brick of powder shaved down to fill multiple small bags is one form, but Spiers says there’s a much more insidious form sweeping the nations.

“They’ve started making pills.”

Cartels have bought pill presses from Amazon and turned the loose powder into a pill, which then appears to be a legitimate medicine.

“People say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen this before; I have taken this before. This must be okay,’” explained Spiers.

“It’s not. Children are dying. Young people are dying every day because they take what they think is a medicine,” acknowledged Spiers, but “since it looks like what [they]’ve taken, it must be the same thing, and it’s not, and they wind up dying.”

With a higher investment in the presses, more pills can be made—up to a million a day, with the right equipment.

Spiers says even drug enforcement agents can’t tell a fake pill from a real one just by looking at it. They have to test it to determine its origin.

Smokescreen

State Sen. Bob Hall surmised that the open border policies are simply a “smokescreen” allowing many people entry to the U.S. and providing the cartels with desperate people willing to become drug mules.

“They are a cover-up, a distraction to occupy our law enforcement.”

“We’re letting the very hardcore criminal effort use that as a smokescreen,” said Hall. “Not just for the fentanyl aspect, but for the human trafficking, the sex trafficking.”

Moving Forward

Spiers argues that the dangers posed by the drug cartels negate the argument that this is a civilian action since the cartels are deeply embedded in the Mexican government and present a legitimate threat to the health and safety of Americans.

“I think we have every right and owe it to the people of Texas to start taking meaningful action to put an end to this heinous piece of it,” said Hall, explaining that the smuggling and trafficking operations are separate from the supposed refugees.

“Calling it an immigration crisis is a distraction,” confirms Spiers. “It’s a distraction because the men and women that have been lured here by false promises or the false belief in this invitation to America, they flood our border and they don’t get here for free. So they pay to come here, and the cartels extract a financial price.”

“This is a danger to everyone,” said Spiers.

“This is not an immigration issue, this is a killing Americans issue,” said Hall. “This is an invasion by a terrorist organization that’s sole purpose is to make money.”

We have got to stop allowing the compassion aspect of allowing these folks in[to] the states because they’re supposedly fleeing oppression, which is false in 99.9 percent of the cases. They’re simply being used as cover for the cartels and in their drug trafficking, human trafficking, child trafficking, sex trafficking operations, and it’s time we put it to an end. It’s time that we declare in meaningful terms that the cartels are a terrorist organization, and we need to take whatever action is necessary to stop it.

Hence, counties across the state are declaring an invasion of the southern border and calling on the governor to exercise his powers as commander in chief to protect Texas.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard. A 2021 graduate of Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government, Sydnie is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.

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