WAR ON FENTANYL | Phil Weiser, Colorado Attorney General. (Photo/The Colorado Trade)
COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL SPEAKS
Jesús Sánchez Meleán / El Comercio de Colorado
We spoke with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser about just one topic: the fentanyl crisis in Colorado. Weiser left a message to drug users and addicts: “If you use drugs, you are playing Russian roulette. You’re putting a loaded gun to your head and you’re risking your life.”
Colorado is the second state with the highest percentage growth in the number of deaths from fentanyl in the US. How is this situation explained?
Phil Weiser: This percentage growth is somewhat misleading. In 2018, Colorado was one of the states with the lowest presence of fentanyl in the US, so we started with a very low number of cases. But the increase in the traffic of this substance has been alarming. The scariest thing is that as long as you continue to use drugs, you have an increasing risk of overdose due to the presence of fentanyl. People must understand that this substance poses a serious threat to their lives.
What conditions have contributed to the fentanyl crisis?
PW: We’ve been restricting the circulation of prescription pills that we already know are addictive. There are now 44 percent fewer prescription pills available for sale on the street in circulation. However, the addicts are still out there and have not received treatment. In Colorado, we are only able to serve 16 percent of people who request treatment. Fentanyl, a tremendously powerful and cheap synthetic opioid, filled the void left by prescription pills.
What is the main objective of the fentanyl bill being discussed in Colorado?
PW: We’re seeing a lot of people buying Xanax pills on the street. In reality, these people are buying a fake pill that was made with fentanyl. Whoever takes one of those pills will most likely die. Someone who sells those pills that cause the death of someone else deserves a serious sentence. We want the penalties for those who distribute dangerous drugs to be raised. We are working to change the penalties starting at the 4 gram possession level.
What does the bill on consumers contemplate?
PW: If all the person is doing is using drugs, because they’re struggling with an addiction, we don’t want to charge them. We want to treat them and save their lives. It is for this reason that we believe that naloxone should be available to those who need it in emergency rooms, in schools. Naloxone is a life-saving medication because when injected or sprayed into the nose it quickly reverses the effects of fentanyl during an overdose.
Would resources be considered for the treatment of addictions?
PW: In Colorado, we have to make sure that we can provide a lot more drug treatment services. From my office we have confronted the pharmaceutical companies and we have managed to get those companies to contribute some 400 million dollars. Those resources have come to Colorado to be used to treat people who develop addictions to opioids. Those resources are not enough in this fight. More support is required. There are still many addicts who are not recovering.
What message do you send to consumers or people with addictions?
PW: People should know that fentanyl is a very powerful drug and it will be much easier to overdose on it. This fact makes fentanyl a much more dangerous drug. It is different from cocaine. And the short message is that if you consume you are playing Russian roulette. You are putting a loaded gun to your head and you are risking your life.