Lawmakers search for ways to regulate synthetic drug use

Legislators are finding ways to address the emerging overdose crisis caused by synthetic drugs just months after Congress signed a bill to fight prescription opioid and heroin abuse into law, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The law included measures to make it easier for the government to prosecute drug traffickers. Synthetic drugs, however, were not addressed in the legislation.

One such drug, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid nearly 100 times more powerful than morphine, was responsible for more than 5,000 deaths in 2014, according to the article. Minnesota police said the singer Prince died from an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl.

Police investigators in Portland, Maine, said the drug has had a recent resurgence in the area because it's relatively cheap and easily available over the internet, according to the article.

Lawmakers have attempted to regulate use of the drug, but face strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. Since synthetic opioids such as fentanyl may be used a painkillers, pharmaceutical companies fear that tighter regulations may hinder research, according to the article.

However, there has been some progress on the issue. A proposed Senate bill would add 22 synthetic drugs to the list of controlled substances. A bill introduced in the House would add nearly 300 synthetic drugs. Both bills have yet to come to a vote in either house.

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