MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — From March 2021 to March this year the CDC reported a 20% uptick in drug overdose deaths in Alabama.
DEA Assistant Special Agent for Alabama Towanda Thorne-James says that trend is largely fueled by fentanyl. She says just 2 milligrams, the equivalent of about 15 grains of salt, can be fatal.
“Fentanyl and overdose deaths are the biggest problems we are facing in this country,” Thorne-James said.
Daphne Rep. Matt Simpson wants to change that, especially after a string of recent overdose deaths in the state, including one of a 15-year-old in Mobile County.
“We have a number of people that are overdosing and dying in our state. This epidemic is hitting us incredibly hard,” Simpson said.
Simpson is proposing a bill next legislative session to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for those who traffic fentanyl. He says one to two grams would lead to a three-year sentence, all the way up to life in prison for eight grams or more.
“I want them to know, and I want everyone to know if you traffic fentanyl in Alabama, we are going to come after you,” Simpson said.
Simpson says he’s spoken with several lawmakers about the proposal already and hopes it can be voted on early in the session, which begins in March.
But the problem doesn’t stop there. Thorne-James says a new trend among traffickers is targeting younger users with “rainbow” fentanyl, which comes in different shapes and colors.
“It is slowly making its way to Alabama, and with any trend, it’s only a matter of time,” Thorne-James said.
She and Simpson want parents to know how deadly this drug is, and to talk to their kids about it.
“This isn’t something like, ‘Oh, you’re going to wake up and be addicted.’ No, it’s going to be one of those things, you just don’t wake up one day,” Simpson said.
In addition to rainbow fentanyl, Thorne-James says another trend the DEA is seeing is an increase in overdose deaths that are “multiples,” where three or more people overdose in one place at the same time.