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Biden surrenders on fentanyl, tells people to carry Narcan around instead

By Sarah May on
 April 11, 2023

As the fentanyl crisis in the United States shows no sign of abating, the Biden administration has announced a partnership between the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Ad Council designed to inform young Americans of the dangers of the drug and the life-saving potential of Naloxone.

Characterized as a “whole-of-government approach,” the administration plans to expand access to overdose reversal medication, take “enforcement actions to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking operations,” and engage in educational campaigns directed toward young audiences.

Marketing blitz planned

As the Daily Mail explains, the administration's national campaign is part of a $46 billion set of initiatives to crackdown on the overdose epidemic resulting from the flow of fentanyl into the country.

The marketing plan reportedly intends to utilize social media, digital billboards, online influences, and creators of “lifestyle content” to raise awareness of the problem and promote the ready accessibility of Naloxone, also known as Narcan.

According to the Mail, the overarching slogan to be employed is, “Carry Naloxone. You could save a life.”

Given that a record number of Americans – 75,000 – experienced fatal fentanyl overdoses in 2022 alone, it is not surprise that the administration is attempting to stem the troubling tide, but that is not to say that this particular strategy is without its critics.

Critics weigh in

A number of legislators and commentators wasted no time in critiquing the new approach, suggesting that it erroneously puts the burden on America's youth to prevent fentanyl deaths instead of enforcing laws at the border to prevent the drug's entry in the first place, according to the Mail.

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-05) took to Twitter to blast the administration's new emphasis, declaring, “America's fentanyl crisis has become so bad that DC is now placing Narcan and fentanyl test strips in vending machines.”

“Biden and the Democrats have the tools to end this crisis but refuse to lift a finger,” Biggs added.

Alluding to the fact that fentanyl has been pouring into the country from Mexico in recent years, Biggs concluded “We need our border secured. Now.”

Skewed perceptions

Biggs is by no means the only person to take issue with the administration's assessment of the fentanyl dilemma, which includes a string of highly debatable assertions last month from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

As Jim Geraghty of National Review explained at the time, when questioned on what the commander in chief is doing to fight back against the fentanyl epidemic, Jean-Pierre made the specious claim that “[b]ecause of the work that this president has done, because of what we've done specifically on fentanyl at the border, it's at historic lows.”

“We've done it in an historic way,” Jean-Pierre declared in reference to the seizure of fentanyl at the southern border.

As Geraghty points out, “[f]entanyl abuse, trafficking, and overdoses are not at historic lows. There is a strong case that fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans between the age of 18 and 45,” casting doubt on the practical relevance of Jean-Pierre's boast.

“Double-edged sword”

Taking Jean-Pierre to task over her portrayal of the administration's efforts at the time was Fox News national correspondent Bill Melugin, who said on Twitter, “Possible misspeak? In no way is fentanyl at 'historic lows.' Seizures and ODs have hit record highs.”

“KJP appears to be implying that record high seizures are a good thing. It's a double-edged sword. Border officials will tell you they only catch a fraction of what comes through,” Melugin added. “The seizures show cartels are pushing MASSIVE amounts of fentanyl across the border.”

Co-host of Fox News' Outnumbered Kayleigh McEnany added her voice to those blasting Jean-Pierre over her claim, saying, “We have a White House, an entire branch of government, the executive branch, who has not even managed to diagnose the problem."

Whether simply putting Narcan in the pockets of young people rather than taking stronger actions at the border will gain traction among the electorate as a viable solution clearly remains an open question for many.