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DHS considers classifying fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction

In this image, a man holds up a poster that reads "Health Alert: Fentanyl is killing New Yorkers"
A heroin user reads an alert on fentanyl. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security has considered designating fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction in certain situations, Task & Purpose scooped yesterday.

What they're saying: "Fentanyl's high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack," James McDonnell, a senior DHS official, wrote in a memo obtained by Task & Purpose.

Between the lines: Yes, fentanyl — which is much more potent than prescription opioids — can be deadly and, yes, it's a huge problem.

  • But the public discussion over the opioid epidemic has not to date been about opioids becoming weapons of mass destruction. And yet the administration has been discussing this possibility for years, according to the memo.

Go deeper ... CDC: Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in the U.S.