The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is sounding the alarm on fentanyl as it is raising the stakes in the illegal drug trade.
Fake counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, a chemical potentially 50 times more potent than heroin, are making the nation’s illegal drug supply more deadly, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
A man living on the streets displays what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
“The supply of these pills is going up exponentially,” said Joseph Palamar, a drug epidemiologist at New York University Langone Health.
“They are easy to transport and difficult to track. Pills are the ultimate fake out. You can fake out your parents, your friends, your partner, law enforcement.”
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The nation recorded the highest number of fatal overdoses on record at approximately 100,000 over a year-long period through this April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Border Patrol agents working the Interstate 19 Immigration Checkpoint near Amado, Arizona, seized over 50 pounds of suspected fentanyl and arrested the driver of the vehicle on Oct. 13, 2021. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
The Mexican drug cartels are spreading this illegal type of fentanyl across more corners of the U.S. where unsuspecting people sometimes ingest an unpredictable amount and mixture of the controlled substance that could kill them, the report added.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have seized an excess of 20 million fake pills this year, such as those that are designed to pass for prescription pain meds like oxycodone, but their mass production by the drug cartels complicates how the agency can control the supply.
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These pills are also disguised as other controlled substances such as benzodiazepines, which are often prescribed for anxiety, but those without any tolerance for these types of medications may unknowingly ingest a much more potent dose than they actually intended, leading to potential lethal consequences, according to the Journal.
A former Mexican police officer was found with enough fentanyl to kill 10 million people, federal officials said Friday. (iStock)
The paper also noted the DEA recently announced approximately 40 fatal overdoses among more than 570 new cases from a recent law enforcement probe to confront the issue, but drug traffickers are now evading authority through social media and encrypted apps.
“Social media is the perfect drug trafficking tool,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a rare public health safety alert, adding, “The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine.”
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“A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil,” according to the DEA press release.
A January, 2020, DEA report says the majority of illegal fentanyl that is coming into the United States originates in China, with significant quantities also flowing in across the border with Mexico.