Inside NoVA: Rep. Spanberger, Prince William police chief sound the alarm over increase in fentanyl overdoses

INSIDE NOVA, BEN PETERS

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger on Tuesday led a news conference with Prince William County officials to tout bipartisan legislation combating fentanyl overdoses in Northern Virginia.

The bill, introduced by Spanberger, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean and Texas Republican Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Wesley Hunt, is aimed at regulating the online sale of counterfeit pills and illegal drugs laced with fentanyl.

Spanberger, a Democrat, and Prince William County Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said at the Woodbridge event that users are increasingly smoking counterfeit fentanyl in pill form rather than injecting it. Counterfeit fentanyl is made to look like prescription pills where a lighter is used to heat it, producing smoke that is inhaled through a straw.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has reported illicit drugs are increasingly being sold and distributed on social media platforms — with experts detecting approximately 10,000 new drug-related accounts each month, according to a news release from Spanberger.

Dubbed the Targeting Online Sales of Fentanyl Act, the bill would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the methods used to enable the online sale of fentanyl and assess efforts by federal law enforcement and online providers to combat the practice. The legislation is a companion proposal to a bill introduced in the Senate by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The bill would also create a grant program to help local police agencies afford high-tech screening devices that can more easily detect fentanyl within minutes, a process that normally takes weeks in a lab.

“As a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA case officer who worked narcotics trafficking cases, I’ve long been aware of the evolving tactics used to move illicit drugs,” said Spanberger, a leading 2025 gubernatorial candidate. “Traffickers and dealers are finding new distribution channels for fentanyl-laced drugs online — while Virginians and Americans across the country are paying the price. Congress and our federal government must do more to combat these deadly operations.

Fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of unnatural deaths in Virginia, Chief Newsham said at the event. In Prince William County, 177 lives have been lost to fentanyl overdoses, including 10 suspected overdose deaths just this year, Newsham said.

“These are real people who are dying,” he said. “These are real families that are being impacted.”

“Oftentimes fentanyl is being put into marijuana on edibles like gummies,” the police chief added. “One of the messages for our children: Never put anything into your system unless you know where it came from.”

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