The Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday announced that the agency has seized an estimated 379 million potentially deadly doses of fentanyl this year — enough to kill every living American.
The seizure includes 50.6 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, according to authorities. As little as 2 milligrams of the synthetic opioid — a dose small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil — can prove lethal, officials said.
The drug can be as many as 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Much of the fentanyl seen in the U.S. is produced from chemicals sourced predominantly from China at secret factories in Mexico, according to the DEA. The drugs are trafficked by the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, officials said.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said Tuesday that stopping the drug cartels are “DEA’s top operational priority.”
In a public safety alert issued last month, officials warned that laboratory tests found that six out of 10 fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl contained a potentially lethal dose of the substance.
“Never take a pill that wasn’t prescribed directly to you,” Milgram warned in a statement issued last month. “Never take a pill from a friend. Never take a pill bought on social media. Just one pill is dangerous and one pill can kill.”
In 2021, DEA officials warned of a sharp increase in the number of counterfeit prescription pills available nationwide that contain fentanyl and methamphetamine. Authorities warned at the time that two out of every five fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contained a potentially lethal dose of the substance.
About 71,240 people died of fentanyl overdoses in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preliminary data for 2022 was not immediately available.