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Jason DeFord, known to his fans as Jelly Roll, moved members of Congress in early January with a compelling testimony about anti-fentanyl legislation and the dangers of the synthetic opioid. 

“I was a part of the problem,” DeFord said. “I am here now standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution. I brought my community down. I hurt people.”

Seated nervously before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the 39-year-old rapper-country singer urged lawmakers to pass the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence Act, also called the FEND Off Fentanyl Act

Jelly Roll Helps Fend Off Fentanyl on Capitol Hill

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2023, drug overdose deaths in the United States surpassed 112,000 in 12 months for the first time in history. 

The FEND Off Fentanyl Act aims to address the crisis by targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain between China and Mexico. If passed, the bill would place sanctions on the transportation of supplies to make synthetic opioids from China to Mexico, where it is manufactured and trafficked into the United States.

DeFord appeared at the hearing on curbing the fentanyl crisis in support of Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tim Scott (R-SC) to provide his perspective on the topic as a former addict and drug dealer. 

“I have attended more funerals than I care to share with y’all,” the Grammy-nominated artist admitted in front of Congress. “I could cry for days about the caskets I have carried [for] the people I love, dearly, deeply in my soul. Good people, not just drug addicts. Uncles, friends, cousins, normal people.” 

Having struggled with drug addiction and witnessed its effects himself, DeFord implored committee members to understand how quickly anyone can become addicted to drugs. 

“Some people that just got into a car wreck and started taking a pain pill to manage it…one thing led to another,” he explained. “How fast this spirals out of control—I don’t think people truly understand.” 

How Did the Fentanyl Crisis Start?

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a dose of just two milligrams–an amount the size of a pencil tip or ballpoint–can be deadly for the average adult. DeFord also testified to how often drug dealers combine fentanyl with other substances like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. 

“I was the uneducated man in the kitchen playing chemist with drugs I knew absolutely nothing about, just like these drug dealers are doing right now,” DeFord said. “…[W]hen they are mixing every drug on the market with fentanyl…they are killing the people we love.”

The FEND Act garnered considerable support in the Senate Banking Committee but has lost steam in the House. Meanwhile, fentanyl is entering communities in record amounts. 

The DEA seized nearly 75 million fentanyl pills in 2023, which was 20% more than the 58 million pills the agency totaled in 2022. In just the first month of 2024, the agency has already seized over 10 million pills. DEA testing has reported seven out of every 10 pills they seize contain lethal doses of fentanyl

A Need for Stronger Drug Policies

As a musician, Jelly Roll is no stranger to the growing reach of fentanyl. “At every concert I perform, I witness the heartbreaking impact of fentanyl,” he said to the Senate committee. 

“I see fans grappling with this tragedy in the form of music that they seek solace in and hope that their experiences won’t befall others…these are the people I’m here to speak for,” explained DeFord.  

Concluding his testimony, DeFord further challenged lawmakers to take a stand for those who are battling substance use. “I encourage y’all to not only pass this bill but bring it up where it matters—at the kitchen table,” the Nashville native said. 

Anti-fentanyl legislation

How Do We Tackle the Fentanyl Crisis?

While the future is unclear for the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, Jelly Roll’s testimony proves a pivotal moment for anti-fentanyl legislation, and his message extends beyond Capitol Hill. 

Stay Informed and Stay Alert 

If you suspect a loved one or family member is overdosing on fentanyl, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you have naloxone, use it immediately. The medication can reverse an overdose. All 50 states offer it in pharmacies, and many states have programs where you can get free Narcan without a prescription.

In addition, having conversations about mental health and addiction with your loved ones is crucial to breaking the stigma associated with them. On the other hand, if you or a loved one are addicted to fentanyl, seeking help is the best way to break the cycle of substance use and start on the path to recovery.

Seek Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction at TRUE Addiction and Behavioral Health

Withdrawal can be difficult and potentially dangerous if not managed properly. Rehabilitation and treatment programs can help with both physical and psychological side effects. Professional support can also provide the tools and resources to help sustain recovery. 

Everyone deserves an opportunity to forge meaningful connections and acquire the skills necessary for a healthy and sustainable recovery. TRUE Addiction and Behavioral Health is dedicated to upholding principles of integrity and fairness while consistently placing our values and commitment to delivering optimal care at the forefront of all our programs and treatments.

If you or a loved one are looking to overcome addiction, don’t wait to start your recovery journey. Contact us today by calling our 24/7 helpline at (615) 527-8610 or emailing