Authorities in the United States have seized enough fentanyl in 2022 to kill the entire population of the country, the US anti-drug agency (DEA) announced this Tuesday, December 20th, warning of the mortal danger posed by this synthetic opiate.
The drug agency said it had seized 50.6 million counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and 4.5 tonnes of powdered fentanyl this year.
The seized material amounts to “more than 379 million potentially fatal doses,” the DEA said.
Fentanyl, which accounted for only a small fraction of overdose deaths a decade ago, is now “the nation’s deadliest drug threat,” he noted.
“It is a highly addictive synthetic opioid and 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,” the DEA noted.
This drug is the main cause of more than 107,000 overdose deaths in the United States, between July 2021 and June 2022, according to official data.
Inexpensive and relatively easy to manufacture, fentanyl has outperformed prescription opiates and heroin on the illegal drug market.
According to the DEA, the main suppliers of fentanyl to the United States are the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels.
The cartels’ fentanyl is manufactured in Mexico with chemicals coming “mainly from China”, the agency said.
Some are distributed in the form of counterfeit drugs, such as Percocet, OxyContin and Xanax, according to the same source.
About 60% of counterfeit fentanyl drugs tested by the DEA contained life-threatening doses of the synthetic drug.
In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security was already considering classifying fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, given its “high toxicity and the increasing availability of the drug”.