Illicit Fentanyl and Weapons of Mass Destruction: International Controls and Policy Options [March 28, 2022]   [open pdf - 697KB]

From the Document: "As synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the United States reach historic [hyperlink] levels, some policy stakeholders have sought U.S. action in designating [hyperlink] fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Such calls [hyperlink] have also prompted congressional interest [hyperlink]. Although a statutory designation of fentanyl as a WMD does not appear necessary for additional executive branch action to address fentanyl as an illicit drug or chemical weapon, Congress may consider developing legislation to improve upon perceived shortcomings in the U.S. government's approach to addressing fentanyl. [...] Various observers draw rhetorical comparisons between fentanyl abuse and WMDs. For example, the congressionally mandated [hyperlink] Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking assessed [hyperlink] in February 2022 that '[i]n terms of loss of life and damage to the economy, illicit synthetic opioids have the effect of a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction.' Others, including some Members of Congress [hyperlink], note the possible use of fentanyl as a weapon; in media reports [hyperlink], observers [hyperlink] have speculated that fentanyl's increasing availability may prompt U.S. adversaries and nonstate actors to weaponize the drug. Governments have also recently committed to restricting the use of central nervous system-acting (CNS) chemicals, including fentanyl, in law enforcement and other security operations. (In 2002, the Russian military reportedly [hyperlink] deployed an aerosolized form of fentanyl to incapacitate terrorists holding hostages in a Moscow theater; the gas also killed [hyperlink] more than 120 of the hostages.)"

Report Number:
CRS Insight, IN11902
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
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