SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The U.S. drug overdose crisis continues, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and the powerful opioid fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that causes more death than heroin or other prescription opioids.

According to the CDC, rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, increased by over 16% from 2018 to 2019. More than 36,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2019. Those numbers jumped even more significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shreveport police say they see an increase in fentanyl on the streets. But they cannot track the exact amount.

“Patients that are using illicit drugs that don’t know that, you know, those drugs contain fentanyl versus patients that have been introduced at some point, you know, to fentanyl because it’s, obviously its more readily available nowadays,”

Lindsey Rogers, Nurse Practitioner – New Hope Addiction Recovery

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced support of new efforts to assist state and local law enforcement in going after drug traffickers in this new war on drugs.

“There is so much we can do; increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery,” Biden said. “…stop the flow of illicit drugs by working with state and local law enforcement to go after traffickers.”

Republican leaders continue to urge the president to label fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs a permanent ‘Schedule 1’ substance. This classification will give fentanyl a higher illegal status under the controlled substances act enabling severe punishment for the trafficking of this substance.

Many insist the surge in fentanyl is due to drug cartels and the open southern border use.

“The amount we have just confiscated at the border is enough to kill every man, woman, and child in America eight times over,” congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) told KTAL news. “This is a crisis of immeasurable proportions, and there’s no stopping it. We’ve had millions of people come in across the border in the last calendar year, and we simply must reverse that policy…”