Pennsylvania Senate Committee Passes Mastriano Bill to Strengthen Overdose Data Gathering

A Pennsylvania Senate panel this week passed a measure sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) to strengthen the commonwealth’s tracking of overdoses.

All Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee supported the bill. It awaits consideration of the state House of Representatives.

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Mastriano Announces Measure Toughening Penalties for Fentanyl Pushers in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) on Thursday announced he will soon introduce legislation to strengthen penalties for fentanyl pushers whose sales result in deadly overdoses. 

The senator is naming his measure “Tyler’s Law” after Tyler Shanafelter, an 18-year-old constituent who bought what he believed was Percocet but turned out to have acquired a fentanyl-laced product. The young man fatally overdosed. 

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Metro Nashville Police Recover Massive Load of Narcotics, including 18,000 Fentanyl Pills, from Donelson Apartment

Metro Nashville Police recovered a large haul of illegal drugs and a loaded weapon Thursday evening at a Donelson apartment while following up on a routine service call.

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Former Speaker of the House and TN-5 Candidate Beth Harwell Stands Firm on Need for Southern Border Wall

Beth Harwell

Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed TN-5 Republican candidate Beth Harwell to the newsmaker line to discuss her support of completing the southern border wall, opinion on $40 billion in aid to Ukraine, and next stops on the campaign trail.

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CBP’s Air and Marine Operations Interdicted 62 Tons of Drugs in First Three Months of Year

Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations interdicted 62 tons (124,000 pounds) of illicit drugs in the first three months of this year, CBP reports, working with international, federal, state and local partners.

“Collaboration keeps us all safer,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said of their efforts. “CBP AMO works with U.S. and international partners to stem the flow of illicit narcotics. Through the end of March, AMO has contributed to the seizure of over 124,000 lbs of narcotics by partner agencies.”

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On Crime, Drugs, Mental Illness, Pennsylvania Local Authorities See a Resource Problem

A Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on crime and public safety dwelled on two issues: the need for more funding and officers to address crime, and the lack of mental health support for struggling people.

Two panels spoke to a number of Republican senators; one comprised local law enforcement officers and the other a state judge, public defender, and district attorney.

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USPS Working with Connecticut Police to Halt Mail Crimes

In what has been an ongoing theme, a division of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been working to crack down on crimes committed by mail. 

This time, their focus has been on Connecticut. 

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Athens Police Department Seize Multiple Firearms, Drugs During Domestic Violence Call

Cop car lights

On Friday, officers with the Athens Police Department responded to a residence on Sweetfield Valley Road “in reference to a subject with a firearm threatening to harm people at the residence,” according to a press release by the department.

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$800M Opioid Settlement to Start Paying Out in 2022

pill bottles spilled onto a table

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined local leaders to announce the next steps of Michigan’s anticipated receipt of $800 million opioid settlements over the next 18 years. 

The settlement includes the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

“I took legal action once I took office to try to recoup money for the devastating impact that the opioid epidemic has had on the communities across our state,” Nessel said in a statement. “I am pleased to see our work pay off with this historic settlement that will bring Michigan communities millions of dollars to support abatement efforts. I know that no amount of money will make whole the thousands of Michigan families impacted by opioids, but this is an important victory in a hard-fought battle.”

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Authorities Confiscate 150,000 Fentanyl Pills in Largest Seizure in Oregon’s History

fentanyl pills on the hood of a vehicle

A joint federal and local law enforcement operation in Portland, Oregon, recently led to the largest single seizure of fentanyl in the state’s history, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The March 1 seizure included around 150,000 counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl and 20 pounds of suspected bulk fentanyl, the DOJ said in a press release. The contraband reportedly had an estimated street value of around $4 million.

The drugs were confiscated as a result of the arrest of four drug traffickers, the DOJ said. The ringleader of the group, Ufrano Orozco Munoz, 27, was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to traffic fentanyl from Mexico and other areas for distribution and sale in Oregon.

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Eastern Ohio Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Committing Federal Crimes

man in handcuffs

An Eastern Ohio man was sentenced in U.S. District Court Friday to 168 months (14 years) in prison for discharging a firearm during a drug-trafficking robbery and for cyberstalking a victim for a year, according to a press release by the Southern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Thirteen Charged for Drug Trafficking Conspiracy That Sought to Distribute Illegal Drugs in the Akron Area

Fentanyl

Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler announced that a federal grand jury returned an eighteen-count superseding indictment charging 13 individuals as part of a drug trafficking conspiracy that sought to distribute illegal drugs in the Akron area.

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Commentary: The ‘Runner’s High’ May Result from Molecules Called Cannabinoids – the Body’s Own Version of THC and CBD

Woman running on the road

Many people have experienced reductions in stress, pain and anxiety and sometimes even euphoria after exercise. What’s behind this so-called “runner’s high”? New research on the neuroscience of exercise may surprise you.

The “runner’s high” has long been attributed to endorphins. These are chemicals produced naturally in the body of humans and other animals after exercise and in response to pain or stress.

However, new research from my lab summarizes nearly two decades of work on this topic. We found that exercise reliably increases levels of the body’s endocannabinoids – which are molecules that work to maintain balance in the brain and body – a process called “homeostasis.” This natural chemical boost may better explain some of the beneficial effects of exercise on brain and body.

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Nashville Metro Health Department Reports High Numbers of Overdoses

Spilled pill bottle on table top with a spoon underneath

The Nashville Metro Health Department (NMHD) released a statement last week regarding an increase in drug-related overdoses. The statement, posted on the Health Department’s Twitter, said there had been an increase in drug-related overdoses, and that overnight there were three overdoses in Hermitage that involved a white powder substance. 

Trevor Henderson, director of the overdose response program, told Fox17 in an interview that while it’s too early to determine what drug was involved with the overdoses, that 75 percent of fatal drug overdoses have involved fentanyl. “It is heartbreaking,” he said, “and to be frank, it’s heartbreaking every single time.” 

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DEA Directive to Stop Saying ‘Mexican Cartel’ Was the Biden Administration’s Way of ‘Appeasing’ Mexico, Recently Retired Agency Officials Say

Two law enforcement officers standing in the back of a truck

The directive for Drug Enforcement Administration officials to not use the term “Mexican cartel” came directly from the Biden administration to ease relations with the Mexican government, two recently retired DEA officials told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The DCNF exclusively obtained an email in August that instructed DEA officials to “now avoid saying ‘Mexican cartel’” when speaking with the media. The email was sent as drugs continued to surge across the U.S.-Mexico border.

One recently-retired DEA official told the DCNF that when the new administration came in, the Department of Justice (DOJ) required DEA to submit news interview requests for approval. The retired official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the DOJ declined many of the national news requests on top of the language guidance, but eventually eased up and allowed some to do local interviews where he used the term “Mexican drug cartel” and called each by its name.

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Meets to Discuss the Danger of Fake Prescription Medication

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) met Monday morning to discuss the dangers of drug addiction and counterfeit medication. Director David Rausch said in the meeting, “let me be clear, if you’re buying pills on the street, in our state, you’re gambling.” Rausch gave a presentation showing examples of drugs like oxycodone, and compared them to the fake pills that people have been dying from. Most fake prescription pills contain fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. In 2017, fentanyl had attributed to 59 percent of drug overdose deaths. In 2019, Tennessee lost over two thousand people to drug overdoses, and of those over a thousand were fentanyl related. 

Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Marie Williams said, “Our state doesn’t just have a counterfeit pill problem, or an opioid problem, or a methamphetamine problem, we have an addiction problem. Just like every other state in this country.”

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Drug Enforcement Administration Issues First Public Safety Alert in over Half a Decade After Surges in Illicit Fentanyl

Fentanyl

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a Public Safety Alert Monday warning of the surge in illegal fake painkillers combined with illicit fentanyl or methamphetamine.

The Public Safety Alert, the first warning in six years, highlighted the surge in fentanyl and methamphetamine-laced pills mass produced by criminal drug groups, which are killing Americans at a historic rate, according to a DEA press release.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA, said in the press release.

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TikTok Promotes Sexual Content, Drugs and Alcohol to Children, Investigation Finds

Video sharing platform TikTok promotes sexual content to underage users through its suggestion algorithm, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

Investigators for The Wall Street Journal set up 31 fake TikTok accounts registered to users between the ages of 13 and 15 and studied their “For You” feeds, which consist of videos recommended to users by TikTok’s suggestion algorithm.

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The Border Crisis Is Killing Americans, Data Shows

The drugs flowing over the border are leading to an uptick in fentanyl deaths, and experts are split about how to solve it.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has called fentanyl the “primary driver” of the record 92,183 drug overdose deaths in 2020. Many drug dealers use fentanyl to make money and smuggle it through the southern border mixed with other drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine to make them more potent — and more deadly — according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Michigan Could Get $800 Million from Opioid Settlement

Close up of white pills

Michigan could receive $800 million under a proposed multibillion-dollar national opioid settlement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The settlement would involve Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

The historic agreement would resolve the claims of state and local governments nationwide and require industry changes.

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FDA Asks for Internal Review of Approval Process for Alzheimer’s Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for an internal review of its own approval process that gave a greenlight to a drug to treat Alzhiemer’s, a move that could shed more light on the controversial chain of decision-making that led to the drug’s being okayed for use.

The FDA last month approved drug company BioGen’s product Aduhelm, the first medicine greenlit in the U.S. to slow the cognitive decline of those living with Alzhiemer’s.

Yet that decision was shrouded in controversy: The approval went against the advice of an outside panel of FDA experts and even led to the resignation of several of those experts in protest.

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More Lethal Fentanyl Found Along the Southern Border this Year Than Last

Federal authorities have seized significantly more fentanyl along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and California since October than they did in the entire 2020 fiscal year.

Since October, authorities have seized 7.000 pounds of the drug, compared to just 4,500 pounds in the entire last fiscal year, according to data from Customs and Boarder Protection. The reasoning, according to authorities, is simply supply and demand.

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Senator Bill Hagerty Answers Questions on His January 6 Vote After More Evidence of Election Irregularities in Georgia, S1, and the Border

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Senator Bill Hagerty to the newsmakers line to answer questions about S1, new evidence of Georgia election irregularities, and the border crisis.

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Over $14 Million Worth of Drugs, Firearms and a Man Wanted for Murder Detained by Border Officials in February

Around $14.3 million worth of narcotics and several weapons have been seized since the start of February at an Arizona port where officials also arrested a man wanted for murder, Customs and Border Protection announced Tuesday.

Officials seized 440 pounds of methamphetamine, 385,000 tablets of fentanyl, 84 pounds of heroin and almost 13 pounds of cocaine in around 25 instances since Feb. 1, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A 28-year-old man wanted for murder in Las Vegas was arrested while in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle, a handgun and over 300 rounds of ammunition.

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Drug Companies Could Get Millions in Tax Refunds for Opioid Settlement Costs

Pharmaceutical companies are planning to deduct restitution payments from opioid lawsuit settlements from their tax filings and will get back around $1 billion each, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health paid around $26 billion for their role in the opioid crisis and plan to receive tax benefits from the settlement, The Post reported. The settlement requires the companies to each pay between $5 and $8 billion to communities for the cost of the health crisis.

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Border Patrol Seized 470,000 Pounds of Drugs in 2020 Using New Screening Tech

Customs and Border Protection seized nearly half a million pounds of illegal narcotics at the border in 2020 using new screening technology, agency officials announced Thursday.

Over half of the narcotics found last year, or around 470,000 pounds, were discovered through so-called non-intrusive inspection technology, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The agency seized a total of 808,522 pounds of illegal narcotics in 2020.

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133 Illegal Immigrants and Nearly $48 Million Worth of Drugs Seized at Texas Border in 5 Days, CBP Reports Show

Customs and Border Protection arrested 133 illegal immigrants and seized roughly 7,630 pounds of narcotics were seized at the border between Texas and Mexico over five days, according to the agency.

Authorities intervened in drug smuggling, human smuggling and trafficking and illegal crossing attempts, and recovered around $47,863,472 worth of narcotics, according to 15 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reports between Aug. 25 and Aug. 28.

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Commentary: Lowering the Cost of Prescription Medicines for Seniors Is Not Impossible

Earlier this year James Payne, a 73-year-old retired attorney in Utah, was so fed up with the high cost of a blood thinner medication he takes, he researched prices in Canada, where he found it was cheaper.

“Under Medicare, I am now paying $225 for a three-month supply,” Payne explained. “That’s $25 more than I was paying last year. Under my employer’s insurance I was only paying $20.” Payne says he is not sure why the costs are so much higher and continue to climb under Medicare, but he thinks there must be ways to make life-saving medications more affordable.

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Border Agents Arrest Two Illegal Immigrants Traveling with $16,000 Cash, Guns and Ammo

A makeshift wooden vessel carrying two men from the Dominican Republic was spotted and intercepted three miles off the coast of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents Thursday morning.

The men were traveling in a “yola” type vessel with a “significant amount of weapons and ammo,” a CBP spokesman told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Two men were arrested and the vessel was seized.

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Opioid Overdoses Rise in State During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting significant increases in opioid overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MDHHS reported emergency medical services (EMS) in the state responded to a 33 percent increase in opioid overdoses from April to May of this year. The department adds that opioid overdoses increased by 26 percent from the prior year during the period between April and June. 

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Ohio Grants Police Drug Task Forces More Than $2M to Combat Trafficking

  The State of Ohio on Monday awarded 27 law enforcement task forces more than $2 million in grants to disrupt the drug trade and promote awareness, prevention and recovery. Gov. Mike DeWine held a presentation at the Ohio Statehouse for the announcement of the RecoveryOhio Law Enforcement Fund, according…

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Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis Set to Sign Cost-Reducing Drug Importation Bill

by Evie Fordham   Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears set to sign a bill creating a program to import prescription drugs from Canada after the Republican-backed legislation passed the state Senate. The bill passed the GOP-controlled Florida House 93-22 on April 11, reported The Associated Press. The Washington Examiner characterized the legislation…

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Ohio Attorney General Pushes to Reform Drug Pricing By Focusing on Middlemen

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost blasted the middlemen responsible for negotiating drug prices on behalf of the state Monday, calling for immediate legislative action. The move comes a month after the state formally launched a lawsuit against the pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) responsible for the negotiations. Currently, Ohio cannot directly…

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Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown Joins Bipartisan Group Introducing Bill Sanctioning China for Opioid Trafficking

Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown joined a bipartisan group of six Senators Thursday to introduce a bill that would sanction any country involved in the trafficking of illegal opioids into the United States. According to the U.S Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Assessment, synthetic opioids,…

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Report: One in Three Children Enter Foster Care Due to Parental Drug Abuse, Ohio Rate Jumped 29 Percent

A report released Tuesday by the nonprofit Child Trends revealed that for the sixth consecutive year, 2017 saw a significant rise in the number of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse or drug seeking behavior. According to the report, 131 out of every 100,000 children in America ends up…

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Study: After a Generation Lost to the Opioid Epidemic, Ohio is Among the Few Hardest Hit to See Signs of Recovery

According to a study released Friday, Ohio is among the 8 states with the highest overall rates of opioid-related deaths in the 18-year span from 1998-2016. However the study also suggests that among those states hardest hit, Ohio is seeing a drop in opioid-related deaths in 2018. Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland,…

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President Trump Tells Reporters the Government Will Stay Shut Down Unless Wall is Built

by Henry Rodgers   President Donald Trump said the federal government will remain shut down unless there is an agreement on some type of border wall or fence. “I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen … [Not until] we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d…

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Ohio Sheriff Under Investigation for Stealing Drug Arrest Money

A Pike County Sheriff has been accused of stealing thousands of dollars, seized in various drug arrests throughout the county, and using the funds to fuel his “compulsive” gambling problem. The investigation, currently underway, stems from an anonymous complaint filed against Sheriff Charles Reader on November 9. The complaint (copied…

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Record-High 70,000 Americans Died of Drug Overdoses in 2017

by Evie Fordham   A record 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses according to 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Thursday, prompting experts to point to the proliferation of the potent substance fentanyl. The CDC’s 2017 data shows that 70,237 Americans died of drug overdoses. That represents…

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Gov. Haslam Signs Legislation to Restrict Opioid Access, Punish Trafficking, Provide Treatment Help

Bill Haslam

The state of Tennessee is adding restrictions to opioid prescriptions and measures to track and punish unlawful distribution of the powerful pain medications. Gov. Bill Haslam signed two bills and issued an executive order last Friday to support TN Together, the latest effort to fight the opioid crisis, WBIR reported,…

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Bill Hennessy Commentary: Missouri’s Governor Greitens Signs Executive Order Protecting Patients’ Prescription Privacy

Tennessee Star

  By: Bill Hennessy   In case you haven’t heard, Governor Greitens signed an executive order on July 17. The EO made Missouri the 50th state to establish some sort of prescription drug tracking. Most states track everything about prescriptions. And hyperactive federal judges have already opened those state databases…

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