A new initiative from Attorney General Jeff Sessions called “Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge” (S.O.S.) aims to tackle the use of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues “regardless of the drug quantity.”
United States Attorney Mike Stuart and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge in mid-July.
In the Department of Justice’s own press release, they described the operation’s scope as follows: “any case involving the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of drug quantity.”
These cases, the announcement promises, will be mercilessly pursued by a United States Attorney’s Office assigned to a certain county (involvement, at this point, appears optional). Furthermore, every United States Attorney’s Office participating in the operation will benefit from an additional United States Attorney placed at each participating district through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Executive Office.
Specific questions need to be answered. Namely, what drugs fall under the “fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and synthetic opioids” umbrella?
Opioids, by definition, are synthetic narcotics. The most SEO friendly government website reflecting this fact is Oregon.gov. Here is the definition of opiate:
Opiates are chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from natural plant matter (poppy sap and fibers).
And from the same government website, here is opioid:
Opioids are chemical compounds that generally are not derived from natural plant matter. Most opioids are “made in the lab” or “synthesized.”
All opioids are “synthetic opioids.” But will the “S.O.S” operation also target drugs already covered under the United States' Federal Analogue Act? The phrase “other synthetic opioids” is cause for concern. A few years ago, the incredibly weak opioid U-47700 was legal in the United States. In the era of carfentanil, U4 was considered weak. The former “research chemical” was stronger than morphine yet recovering addicts used it as a cheap chemical used to help with dope sickness. Many similar chemicals exist as unscheduled opioids. Not fentanyl analogues—although those, too, exist—but simply “synthetic opioids” such as hydrocodone and tramadol.
As Ronald Reagan one said, “the government’s duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” What happens when protection goes too far or without a clear and precise definition of what kind of protection the government can or will offer. While this operation could save lives, it could also ruin the lives of young individuals caught selling more than a pill or two of their expired medication from a soccer-related injury.