In a battle being fought in every community in America, fentanyl has become the top killer of all adults ages 18 to 49 years old.
From speaking to recovery specialists and political leaders in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Fox 4 Investigates is searching for solutions to the fentanyl epidemic.
On the state level, political leaders spent much of the legislative session focusing on penalizing fentanyl dealers and traffickers.
During his State of the State Address, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for stiffer penalties for fentanyl traffickers.
“We need to increase penalties for fentanyl dealers, especially those who target our children and to do that, we must treat them like the murderers that they are,” DeSantis said.
And soon, the justice system will treat fentanyl dealers like murderers. The state legislature passed several bills to battle the fentanyl epidemic.
One would allow drug dealers and traffickers to be charged with first-degree murder if investigators consider the fentanyl to be a substantial part in the cause of death.
Gov. DeSantis also signed legislation into law that would allow prosecutors to seek life in prison for fentanyl traffickers who target children with packages that look like candy.
"We're throwing the book at them if they're gonna come after our children," DeSantis said at a bill signing in Jacksonville.
Another bill would legalize fentanyl test strips, which under current state law are considered drug paraphernalia.
In an impassioned speech on the floor of the state legislature, one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland) said the bill would save lives.
“Fentanyl test strips don’t make people do drugs. They don’t stop people from doing drugs. They stop people from dying. And that’s the goal,” said Hunschofsky.
“I don’t think (test strips) should be criminalized. Any tool that can help someone reduce their risk of dying, it shouldn’t be made illegal,” said Dr. Eric Collins, an addiction psychiatrist and the Chief Medical Officer at Recovery Education, an online learning platform to help parents whose children may have fallen under the grips of addiction.
Collins says parents need new tools to fight fentanyl because many of the education campaigns we saw in school aren’t successful.
“Those warnings don’t really stop people from trying things,” Collins said. “I wish they did.”
The state of Florida received more than $200 million from a settlement with some of the largest makers of opioids.
Gov. DeSantis announced plans to establish an office of opioid recovery and expand a statewide pilot program to help people break the grips of addiction.
On the national level, South Carolina Republican Se. Lindsey Graham proposed legislation that would label the Mexican Drug Cartels as foreign terrorists.
Which would allow the Treasury Department to ban financial transactions and freeze assets.
“We're gonna unleash the fury and might of the United States against these cartels,” Graham said. “We're gonna destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depends on us taking decisive action."