US authorities seized more fentanyl in 2022 than enough to kill the entire US population, the US Anti-Drug Agency (DEA) said on Tuesday, recalling the deadly danger posed by this synthetic opiate.
The DEA said it seized 50.6 million counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl and 4.5 tons of fentanyl powder during the year. This equates to “more than 379 million potentially lethal doses”, she estimated.
Fentanyl, which accounted for only a tiny fraction of overdose deaths a decade ago, is now “the deadliest drug threat in the country,” the agency says. .
“It is a highly addictive artificial opiate that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially lethal dose,” she declared.
It is the leading cause of the more than 107,000 overdose deaths in the United States from July 2021 to June 2022, according to official data.
Fentanyl is cheap and relatively easy to manufacture and has displaced prescription opiates and heroin in the illegal drug market.
According to the DEA, the main suppliers of fentanyl to the United States are the Mexican cartels Sinaloa and Jalisco.
Their fentanyl is made in Mexico with chemicals “mainly from China,” she said.
Some are distributed in the form of counterfeit prescription drugs such as Percocet, OxyContin and Xanax, according to the same source.
About 60% of the counterfeit fentanyl-containing drugs tested by the DEA contained life-threatening doses of fentanyl.