tv After Words Ben Westhoff Fentanyl Inc. CSPAN September 15, 2019 9:01pm-9:58pm EDT
>> ben, great to be with you. thank you for all of your effor effort. what an incredible four years on fentanyl ink so let's dive right in. my interest was that i come from new hampshire and i started a bipartisan task force with 100 members of congress working together and we have been hit very hard in our state 471 deaths last year. but the mix of those is
changing it is fentanyl but as you write about in your book it is mixed with cocaine, metha. so i just want to start off with the big picture what got you into this? what gave you incentive to spend four years of your life and how did you keep going with it? it is fascinating. >> i had a friend who died in 2010 from fentanyl before people were talking about it and before i knew what it was. it wasn't until four years ago i was a music journalist primarily in doing a report on why so many people were dying at raves. this big electronic music where there is tens of thousands of people partying and somebody would always die
and the deaths would be blamed on ecstasy. i have never heard of ecstasy being such a lethal drug and i find out almost all of the ecstasy was adulterated. >> it had been mixed with chemicals there is no true ecstasy it's all these new chemicals i want to find out what these drugs were. it turns out there are hundreds of new drugs i have never heard of the most people have never heard of that are all synthetic all made in the lab and almost all of them in china i heard about drugs coming from mexico afghanistan or columbia but i had no idea
where these new drugs were being made and the most deadly was fentanyl and that sent me on a quest to get to the source. >> to understand where it came from you did a fascinating job your book was describing the infrastructure that developed in one of the hearings with the drug enforcement agency talks about this in china because you actually went to their. how did you make the connection were what did you learn when you got to china quick. >> i learned buying drugs online is just incredibly easy
so i started you google the names of drugs like fentanyl and i found these chinese labs and i sent them an e-mail pretending to be a drug buyer with a fake e-mail address if i was ever in china if i could visit the lab and they said yes. so i went i went early last year and what i found was pretty shocking. i was expecting like an underground cd environment something just like the mexican or colombian cartel from a legitimate business. >> and to some extent you describe they are legitimate businesses staying one
molecule ahead of law enforcement trying to schedule the drugs to stay legal. >> exactly. when it comes to fentanyl band in china there are these little offshoots and they are called analogs you can make an analog by tweaking the chemical structure just a tiny bit. for years that's how the chinese chemists have said - - stayed one step ahead of the loss of when china bands the drugs they would just tweak it slightly then begin selling the new drug until it was illegal so they are operating within the law and that has only changed recently in may when china agreed to ban all
types of fentanyl even before the new ones were invented. >> so explain to the listeners the people in the united states are buying the precursor chemical to make fentanyl then they mix the ingredients before they sell in the retail capacit capacity. you kept having these visuals and one was a coffee grinder and using that to mix the substances but that is part of the risk. help people to understand the lethality of fentanyl in the small amounts like grains of
sand that could be a lethal overdose that could kill someone but they don't understand when they buy that what the mix is. >> you've hit on an important point. because harrell when is grown from the poppy, it's a natural plant. but fentanyl is made in a lab and is 50 times stronger. drug dealers will not use pure heroin they will cut it with fentanyl because it's a way to save money. it so much cheaper to make , more powerful but the problem is the way they mix them together is not precise or scientific. so these dealers in st. loui st. louis, one that i talked
to said they will mix the heroin in the fentanyl using a mister coffee grinder the same thing you do coffee beans. but the problem is you cannot do it precisely one dose could be week and another could be so strong to kill someone for go that's exactly why so many people are dying from fentanyl. >> what are the comments you were quoting people because it does seem counterintuitive if this is a product that is literally killing the people that purchase it doesn't sound like a good business model. but you quoted people to say that they find out about a death they want that batch because it is stronger. so is at the level of
addiction that causes someone to take that step? or did you get more behind talking to the users and the high they are chasing don't even get high anymore from parowan. it just gets rid of the withdrawal systems and gets them back to baseline. with fentanyl they can get high again. it is so much stronger. so unfortunately what happens is when someone overdoses, and another addictive user hears about that they don't say i better stay away from that they say this must be a powerful batch. i want that. they want that euphoria so that is very unfortunate. >> and it's hard certainly for
policymakers and with all those around the country that are dealing with this the other part of the book it was fascinating was the war on drugs going back to the history with president megan and just say no. talk about that a little bit and the impression if that approach is successful. >> i am whereas hearing just say now about the war on drugs. sorrow fentanyl is killing
more americans every year than any drug ever. we have been through crack, met crack, meth, pills like oxycontin, that was the first part of the opioid crisis, that heroin was the second wave that fentanyl is the most killing the most people. it was evidence the war on drugs is not succeeding. to help take out pablo escobar the famous colombian cocaine king but his did nothing to slow now we're getting more cocaine than ever before sowell troppo is imprisoned recently but is not stopping the flow of drugs from mexico at all.
locking people up for small nonviolent drug offenses has been devastating for the minority communities in terms of money spent so to me the on drugs is not working. >> it is a public health issue at this point in one of the issues we are focusing on is to understand that people who are incarcerated typically do not get access to substance abuse treatment or even the underlying mental health or trauma they might have been dealing with. the reason for that when congress created medicaid they had the exclusion for people during incarceration so
medicaid coverage stops the minute they go when weather penitentiary or prison or jail so people have had sufficient healthcare access to treatment but then they come out and we actually talked that they go back to their addiction and their crime so the incredibly high recidivism rates just going back in and if you think about it we are not surprised if they come out with diabetes. and i keep talking with law enforcement to say we are not going to arrest our way out of this it is a public health issue so legislation is to bring medicated treatment for the underlying mental health issues and substance abuse issues into our communities
and jails and prisons. >> that is a great piece of legislation. everything you are saying has been shown to be the case with drug dealers or drug use are recidivism and what you mentioned before medication assisted treatment there are different names for but it is a two-pronged approach to attack the chemical problem in the drug problem using the low-level opioids like methadone may help them to taper off these very destructive opioids. >> and they could literally quell the urge to take the
other drug. >> yes. and at the same time combining that with therapy with counseling because what we found is not just the drug in almost every case there is a personal problem people have in their lives they are out of work they have severe health problems and personal issues and if these things can be addressed in tandem the ability for someone to get off drugs ought to be pretty good. >> one of the lines i wanted to quote one of the people working with the therapy said exclusively focusing on that
chemical aspect overlooks 100 percent of my patients have experienced childhood trauma or have a mental health disorder which is tied in and that is interesting with that 100 percent because in new hampshire they are starting to bring this treatment with this therapy in-house and already having profound results and they told me 100 percent of those incarcerated in new hampshire have either 75 percent to sexual assault in their lifetime and 25 percent abuse and neglect in childhood. so if you are not treating the underlying mental health
issues then you are spinning your wheels to help someone get past their addiction and treatment is not a 28 day one and done it is a very high rate of relapse and we need to recognize where the healthcare issues we don't say to a diabetic i cannot treat you you just ate cake we said has difficult how can we help you and your family because you should not eat cake. we need to help you for the rest of your life because there is cake everywhere and you cannot have it. that's another thing to talk about that harm reduction model. >> new england is really where
the opioid epidemic and fentanyl in particular kicks off. it was the worst a few years back but the encouraging thing is that we have been seeing that death strop in new england the last couple of years even while they are still going up and places in missouri like where i live and unfortunately the epidemic is heading west. but there has been an incredible success with medication assisted treatment and medicaid expansion is helping a bunch of people. >> we have a program we call safe stations you can walk right into a fire station and without risk of arrest or
incarceration to say i need help. i have a health issue which is addiction of substance abuse and they will connect you with treatment and get you into treatment but medicaid expansion is critically important the first 100 people to walk through the door 95 are eligible for medicaid expansion. it's not that they couldn't get the help they had no place to turn or sufficient treatment. the hospitals would not help them to get past the detox and that is the critical link that you keep talking about heroin
to not go through withdrawal and to me that is a public health issue we should be able to help them get through withdrawal and one of the issues we learned about medically assisted treatment in some cases you don't have to. you can get directly onto that medication and then that helps you to taper off. >> that includes narcan this is the miracle opioid reversal dru drug. >> saving thousands of lives. >> in some states they made is a don't need to have a prescription but to provide funding for our firefighters are first responders or even librarians because their
situations now where people are passing out in library bathrooms it is an epidemic across the country and they are not trained to deal with these situations. >> but that is one of the things that they are so exhausted from this. so talk about what you learn about the harm reduction model and how we can educate and prevent overdosing and people harming themselves. >> i went to spain, barcelona. and they have these facilities calls supervise injection facilities for addicted users could go in with a clean needle and shoot up parowan or
fentanyl and even smoke crack cocaine it is legal to do so inside the facility they are watched over by trained medical staff. it is a little outside the boss - - the box. >> that is all part of the package because as we learn more about this moment of clarity ready for treatment and help and to make that readily available to people to take that step. >> that is part of it and these centers bring the addicted users out of the park like in barcelona they had a
scourge of needles and parks and kids were stepping on them in addicted users in the streets what they are brought into these locations in canada they have a lot in europe i have a lot nobody has ever died at one of these facilities. but in the us they are banned and illegal and there has been a number of cities that have tried to have them including philadelphia recently but the federal government has banned them. is something we need to think about also fentanyl testing strips. >> talk about that. might these testing strips and narcan. >> it's all part of that harm reduction strategy but those in particular, in no way they look like a pregnancy test.
you take your drugs, you don't know what is in it. it can be heroin mixed with fentanyl. you don't know if there is one stripe that means there is two stripes mean there isn't. so what studies have found is that if people realize there is fentanyl in their drugs it can be mixed into cocaine or meth or pills than they are less likely to take it and less likely to overdose and dies. >> talking about your friend in 2010. for me was 2014 when he had graduated college and come back to small town in new
hampshire taking extra courses his parents were aware he had had a drug problem and had been to treatment and came back and was living with them and what happened is he got a bad cold and went to get medication for the cold and unbeknownst to everyone, the parents and pharmacist and the doctor, it was cough syrup with codeine and the codeine created a drug seeking behavior in him and immediately he made a call to the heroin dealer but was delivered was 100 percent fentanyl we didn't know anything about it at that point so his mother whom i got
to know very well after this came home to find him dead on the bathroom floor with a needle still in his arm. what that means it is a lethal dose instantly. so what is it about the chemistry of fentanyl? do you have a chemistry background? you did a really good job i was having a hard time following but what is it that makes it a lethal dose that you can literally die? and he had no idea. >> was interesting about fentanyl is that it was created in the late 19 fifties by a belgian chemist and he wanted to create a better drug for use in hospitals. he did.
fentanyl was used in open-heart surgery and continues to be a very important drug childbirt childbirth, colonoscopies, and it still remains an important hospital drug and people with cancer and end of life care but what he didn't realize was that along the way the row chemist started to go through the scientific literature that they were publishing. in the old days as a scientist you publish a paper and it goes into a university library in pretty obscure. but in the internet age all of
these papers were published online and publicly available. >> exactly so they were looking for these files specifically for these papers to go through them and appropriate that chemical formula to make these new drugs. so they began exploding all over the internet. and then to come about in this way. >> it is fascinating and very relatable as that these incredible personal stories and one was the death in grand forks north dakota.
and with that interaction of law enforcement and with the international mystery of how that came about. >> bailey was an 18 -year-old kid who just graduated from high school. he never tried fentanyl and tell he received it one night at a party was stronger than anything he had ever had before. he passed out and died. his parents had no idea what fentanyl was. nobody did. it was 2015 in grand forks was pretty small fairly conservative place and i talk to the mayor and he said we don't think of ourselves that we have a big drug problem. but now they are more fentanyl deaths in the community realize they had to take strong action against this
problem. so only adopted the forward thinking harm reduction approaches. north dakota for example is called the good samaritan law and basically that means in with the drug overdose you are allowed to call the police and the ambulance without fear of criminal prosecution. >> because typically somebody as they are and they are frightened because they don't want to get in trouble. >> exactly. that happens a lot. also in grand forks it is an isolated place north dakota doesn't have many big cities. so they permitted with that treatment to be done remotely
like skype so they could talk with doctors with this type of medicine they are now starting to hand out test strips it is very impressive show of support from that community gimmick i was in the house veterans affairs committee so i did a lot with veterans during my first term and also i have a rural district and they started to do mental health and now they are starting to do medically assisted treatment with long-distance treatment i was incredibly surprised how successful that was.
them they had their session. and then visiting one of the hospitals to have bad expertise that they need. >> it also ushers in that shift and a mindset and talking through the coordinator grand forks that the fentanyl epidemic is changing the way people think about addiction and that it's a way to jail out of the way out of the problem treating addiction as a disease to get people treatment and even spilling over into alcoholism.
drugs. that they receive a tax rebate for exporting fentanyl in the other drugs. but with the trade war and president trump trying to usher in the chinese president to make these changes that they should be made. when even if we control the industry and india is already starting to make fentanyl so in conclusion we need to focus on the demand the only thing we can do ourselves and with the harm reduction with what we have been talking about.
recovery and then to recognize that is a probability. with long term recovery and sober houses. and then to get people to a healthy place. to the the fact that they will not be tempted with this lethal drug coming from china. you can tell you are a journalist because there was a lot of depth to the story. there was an incredible story of the opioid wars with the ironic twist. on the drugs that are imported.
>> china had fought opium wars in the early 19th century and england was sending all the opium into china. the chinese people were getting addicted in the chinese leader said we want you to start bringing this into our country but england refused so there were two were spotted that. now today what is going on could be described as the reverse opium or because the drugs are coming out of china and because now they are getting addicted. with the chinese officials they don't want to take responsibility which is not surprising they blamed the us for its own culture of drugs. that is a good point.
and even as a country like the uk for example. so recently these documents you are alluding to let the right and pharmaceutical companies. but of course purdue pharma that also on oxycontin and were shown to be pushing the drug trying to make sales to just to show how addictive it was. purdue pharma does get a lot of blame. but from the new documents in that company that is based in st. louis and these oxycodone
discovery. and i have to ask you one question and back to china it seems if you were a foreign country to threaten the well-being of our country this would be a brilliant strategy with america and these towns do you ever think of this as a homeland security issue cracks? in terms of international relationships died from drug overdoses so is china doing this on purpose?
is it going to war that trump and chris christie have used this term, war, the way i think about it it didn't start out that way. meant to encourage the chemical industry exports and through the use chemical exports. and then going to the road companies with the fentanyl and fentanyl like drugs and you know who is in charge and steering the ship and that one example was last year in the midst of the trade war and to
raise the tax rebates. with 9 percent and 10 percent and then china raised the rebate so makes me wonder and there isn't a smoking gun. >> i appreciate the depth of your research is extraordinary. in the couple minutes we have left is there any other stories that stands out that you want to be sure to get across to the listeners? >>. >> it isn't just drug abusers a long time addicted users.
it could be in any powder or in any pill. the singer prints thought he was taking a legitimate narcotic pharmaceutical pain pill it even had percocet stamped on it and was legitimate but it was cut with fentanyl and that is how he died. people are taking what they think is cocaine and they are dying. the unfortunate thing is these types of drugs are not safe anymore i experimented with drugs when i was younger but the sad thing is maybe if i did that same thing today i could be a casualty.
>> and chemistry in history and science and international relations and at the end of the day to get out to every parent or young person so i plan to share that with my colleagues and i appreciate the effort you put into that. and then to highly recommend that. >> thank you for all of your good work you are making a difference absolutely. >> thank you so much.
the free press that does not push a theological agenda or in the back parking of one party or another and doesn't push socialized or climate change if you turn on the tv most are browbeating with propaganda and left-wing agenda. that's not freedom of the press it's on the internet they are the pamphleteers and with that patriot media to help found in the country and then now the press is trying
to reform us diametrically opposed what is the last time there was a leak to the new york times that never happens when was the last time there is an exposé in the washington post negative a nancy pelosi? that never happens in those that support them every day they did before the election and since the election and today it's not a free press it is propaganda. [applause] and to answer your question what this book does is not surface level a look at the history of the press, and the
constitution, i really dug into this issue there was no diversity. 80 percent don't trust it in 8 percent do then i look at social activism. and not trying to do climate change tonight and i said who the hell is this guy? does he have a background in the subject? know. is he a hack? yes. climatology and meteorology and now they are banned that
are climate change deniers does anybody deny there is climate change? there is a son up there we deny what we could do about it. people were looking for answers. and when i'm trying to generate the tea party revolution in the article five convention. >> and what this does is explains who they are because
a force if we ever get our country back or are freedom of the press pack and that is what this book is about. [applause] and as president trumpet given the opportunity and i was listening to your show a few months ago and it became apparent maybe more than once to sit with our president to talk with the president. and having spoken with them. >> i don't meet with him that often just an occasional
conversation. and i will tell you this is a very smart man and enormously charismatic and knows what's going on. not anything like he is portrayed in the media. and when you work on - - look at him it's like a joke. >> so i would tell you this the republican primary i supported cruise and then come the general election i supported president trump. i'm glad that i did. [applause] a lot of his positions are so solid and to be extremely
fortunate and also for his family. [applause] he and his family are taking more crap than ever present her family should have to take with pelosi and her husband get away with and the chairman of the committee's get away with. so i told my family, i will do whatever i have to do. to defend this constitution against the mob that is trying to forcibly remove the president of the united states. [cheers and applause]
>> on the mob it is a good point so now our attorney general do you think as you were chief of staff do you think they would be successful with the intelligence agencies and the fbi to find the truth of what actually happened? >> i cannot be more proud of attorney general barr. he did not have to take this
he's been attorney general before general counsel, ceo, he had gone off to the villages like robert mueller. [laughter] but he didn't. he is coolheaded and cool as a cucumber. they will hold him in contempt. is this a joke? i hold them in contempt by the way. [applause] and i don't need a vote to hold them in contempt. i just do. he is a man of the law. with the bush administration with no ax to grind but sees we have a rogue house of representatives and a rogue committee chairman and six committees using government paid for staff with tax dollars turning the house into the opposition research