The lethal synthetic drug fentanyl has been increasingly trafficked into the U.S., and, in fiscal year 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a 134% increase in seizures of the illicit drug.
Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and a lethal dose is about 2 milligrams, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has recently warned about the increase in fentanyl-laced pills cartels in Mexico are manufacturing with chemicals provided by China.
The drug is fueling an overdose epidemic in the U.S., and is the leading killer 18-45 year olds nationwide.
Authorities in Arizona seized $9 million worth of fentanyl pills in the state’s largest bust of the illicit drug – enough, they said, to kill half the population of Arizona.
The bust comes after a nonprofit group cites fentanyl as the leading cause of death among Americans between the age of 18 and 45. Arizona and Texas attorneys general and governors vowed to fight what they called the “lawlessness of the Biden administration,” which they argue is enabling fentanyl to be brought into the U.S. through its open border policies.
The government has reported that, since the year 2020, fentanyl overdoses have become the new leading cause of death for American adults between the ages of 18 and 45, as reported by Fox News.
The analysis from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) shows that nearly 79,000 Americans died from the drug between 2020 and 2021. Of those, just over 37,000 died in 2020 while almost 42,000 died in 2021. Fentanyl is an opioid that is sometimes laced with other drugs such as meth and heroin when used by addicts, but can also be deadly on its own in even small doses. The primary foreign sources for imports of the drug are China and Mexico.
U.S. drug agents are expanding operations in China – six years after America’s largest trading partner and global rival emerged as the main source of chemicals used to make highly lethal fentanyl. It’s now claiming 65,000 American lives a year.
The small crew of about a dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, including those in new outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, is nearly double the number in 2018. They face what seems like mission impossible: collaborating with Chinese agents to try to bust traffickers hidden somewhere in a sprawling export supply chain that’s linked to 160,000 companies.
“It’s such a massive chemical industry, and then there are layer upon layer of traders, brokers and freight forwarders,” says Russ Holske, the DEA’s director for the Far East, who set up the new offices in China before he retired. “It’s a daunting challenge.”
During the beginning of COVID-19, hospital inpatient volume and emergency department visits decreased, in part due to people postponing treatment. But the same data showed an increase in the number of patients getting treatment for alcohol, drug use, and related mental disorders, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported in April. In a Friday press conference, VHHA Vice President of Data and Analytics David Vaamonde reported that increased treatment for those kinds of disorders continued into the first two quarters of 2021 — one of only two Major Diagnostic Categories (MDCs) that saw growth since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We’re looking at MDCs where volumes actually increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have alcohol and drug use, and drug induced organic mental health disorders, obviously a very concerning trend there, and then diseases and disorders of the respiratory system and infectious and parasitic diseases,” Vaamonde said, adding that the respiratory, infectious, and parasitic categories line up with what a COVID-19 patient would have.
On a September afternoon, Allyssia Solorio wondered why her energetic young brother hadn’t emerged from his bedroom in their Sacramento, Calif., home. When she opened his door, she saw 23-year-old Mikael leaning back on his bed with his legs dangling over the side. She rushed to her brother and shook him, but to no avail. He was dead. A counterfeit pharmaceutical pill laced with illicit fentanyl had killed him.
Mikael Tirado was one of an estimated 93,331 overdose fatalities in the United States last year – an all-time high. Nearly five times the murder rate, the deadly overdose toll was primarily caused by fentanyl, a highly lethal synthetic opioid. It’s manufactured mostly by Mexican cartels with ingredients imported from China, and then smuggled over the southwestern U.S. border. Fentanyl has been arriving in larger quantities each year since at least 2016.
In one year, Customs and Border Protection agents encountered triple the number of people entering the U.S. illegally compared to the previous year. From October 2020 to September 2021, 1,734,686 people were encountered at the U.S. southern border.
From October 2019 to September 2020, that number was 458,088.
Snapchat is putting in place new safety measures to try and stop young users buying and selling fentanyl on its platform, the company announced Thursday.
The company unveiled an in-app education portal called “Heads Up” in a blog post Thursday designed to provide young users with information from substance abuse advocacy groups including Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on the dangers of fentanyl. Snapchat also said it is planning on adding health information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in the coming weeks.
U.S. authorities criticized social media for an uptick in drug trafficking following a massive seizure of over a million fentanyl-laced pills and hundreds of drug dealer arrests.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Monday that it, alongside various law enforcement partners, seized over 1.8 million fake pills laced with fentanyl and arrested over 800 alleged drug dealers over the course of a two-month drug bust beginning in August. Authorities have criticized social media companies that have failed to stop the sale of these illicit drugs on their platforms.
Federal authorities have seized significantly more fentanyl along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and California since October than they did in the entire 2020 fiscal year.
Since October, authorities have seized 7.000 pounds of the drug, compared to just 4,500 pounds in the entire last fiscal year, according to data from Customs and Boarder Protection. The reasoning, according to authorities, is simply supply and demand.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 6,494 pounds of fentanyl in the first four months of 2021. This is much higher than the 4,776 pounds seized in all of 2020. While it is impressive that CBP has removed this much of the deadly drug from the market, the majority of the fentanyl brought into the U.S. is not seized, and increasing amounts of fentanyl are reaching Americans. The drug, a synthetic opioid, was invented in 1960 for medical applications and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. In recent years, Mexico-based criminal organizations have been manufacturing the highly addictive drug, often mixed with other substances, and distributing it throughout the United States.
Border officials seized nearly 2,400 more pounds of fentanyl from January to April 2021 than during the same period in 2020, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Officials seized nearly 3,290 pounds of fentanyl in the first four months of 2021 compared to around 920 pounds in the same timeframe of 2020, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Border officials seized a total of 7,300 pounds of fentanyl from January to December 2020.
Virginia had another record year for fatal drug overdoses in 2020. In 2019, Virginia had a record 1,627 fatal drug overdoses, but in 2020 that number spiked by 41.2 percent to 2,297, fueled by fentanyl overdoses, according to a fourth-quarter report from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
“The pandemic exacerbated drug deaths and last I checked, something like 40-plus states reported big increases in overdose deaths since the pandemic began,” VDH Statewide Forensic Epidemiologist Kathrin Hobron told The Virginia Star.
When it comes to Fentanyl, it is hard for us to think beyond the sheer human tragedy.
It is hard for us to think beyond the 32,000 lost to overdoses from this drug in 2018 – up from 28,000 the year before.
It is hard for us to think beyond the suffering James Rauh of Cleveland has endured. His son, Thomas, injured himself in a roller-blading accident and was prescribed opioids to deal with the pain. The son became addicted, turned to heroin and died when unbeknownst to him, he injected a dose of pure fentanyl that was provided by the drug dealer.
George Floyd had fentanyl in his system and had recently used methamphetamine before his death, which was ruled a homicide, according to a county medical examiner autopsy released Monday.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report said Floyd experienced “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” were “significant conditions” leading to his death. The report ultimately deemed his death a “homicide” due to law enforcement restraint and “neck compression” that contributed to a heart attack.