Here’s the “new normal” in southwestern Ohio: 50 to 70 opioid overdoses per week, with spikes that can leave a dozen people dead in just 48 hours. Those grim statistics, relayed by Newtown's police chief at a Senate hearing Thursday, highlighted an urgent debate over how to stop the flood of deadly synthetic opioids into the U.S.

Drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which can be 50 to 10,000 times more potent than heroin, have intensified the opioid epidemic and overwhelmed police departments and coroner’s offices across Ohio and other states.

“How many more people have to die before our government gets its act together?” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, asked Thursday during a Senate hearing he chaired on the shipment of synthetic opioids into the U.S.

Portman’s ire was trained at one specific government agency: the U.S. Postal Service, which serves as a primary conduit for such drugs coming into the United States, mostly from China, Cincinnati.com reports. Portman described doing a Google search for “fentanyl for sale” and immediately finding plenty of options — along with promises of discreet shipment “with undetectable and careful packaging.” 

The Postal Service greases the path for these drugs to enter the U.S., Portman said, by failing to require foreign shippers to submit electronic data on packages designed for American mailboxes. Private carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, already collect such data — including the name of the sender, the name of the recipient, and the package contents.

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