A bipartisan Congressional investigation exposed how fentanyl has been smuggled into the country through the United States Postal Service. Sen. Rob Portman (R - Ohio) led the investigation and said only about a third of the nearly 500 million packages entering the US were being thoroughly screened.
Portman said investigators found it was far too easy to find fentanyl for sale.
"These online sellers were quick to respond, unafraid of getting caught apparently and ready to make a deal," Portman said in during a hearing outlining the investigation in Washington Thursday.
He said every dealer they found preferred to use the US Postal Service.
"We didn't know with regard to 318 million packages who sent it, where it was going, what was in it," he said. "This is a massive loophole."
Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. Portman said fentanyl caused more than half the overdose deaths in the US in 2016 and likely more in 2017.
"It's ramped up what's happened in the opiate crisis 100 fold," said Marcie Seidel with the Prevention Action Alliance. "The people who deal with these kinds of substances are crafty people and will look for ways to get it into the mainstream of our society without even being noticed."
The US Postal Service said in a statement it's quickly getting better at catching opioids being shipped. It said it's now working with Customs and Border Protection to find better ways to stop drug shipments.
Some people fighting the epidemic said one step toward ending the crisis was cutting off the supply.
"I don't think it'll take care of everything but it's a wonderful start," Seidel said.
Portman introduced a bill to require more thorough screening for packages being sent from overseas. The USPS said it supports the goals of the bill but said it wanted to see changes made to it to make it work better.