In an ongoing effort against the escalating fentanyl crisis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than 77 million fentanyl pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder — the most the DEA has ever seized in a single year.
The haul translates into more than 386 million lethal doses — a quantity sufficient to potentially end more lives than the entire U.S. population, according to a recent DEA press statement.
Today, fentanyl is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Nationwide, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 107,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2021 mainly due to fentanyl.
Despite intensified efforts, the DEA has acknowledged the challenge of keeping pace with the influx of fentanyl at the southern border, primarily produced and smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico by the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels with precursor chemicals from China.
The cartels purchase chemicals from companies in China, mass produce the fentanyl in Mexico and then smuggle and distribute the finished fentanyl throughout the U.S. In 2023, the DEA took action to disrupt every step of the fentanyl supply chain including bringing the first-ever charges against Chinese chemical companies and their owners for supplying precursor chemicals.
The DEA, per its statement, has built a new strategic layer of “Counter Threat Teams” to focus on each cartel and the illicit finance networks that fund them both. Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott highlighted the enormity of the challenge.
“The dedicated women and men of DEA are doing everything in our power to battle the fentanyl scourge that is destroying our communities, but we’re essentially drinking water from a firehose,” said Todd, head of DEA’s Louisville Field Division. “This is not a problem that can be solved by law enforcement alone.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted record numbers of drug poisonings for 2023, with their latest estimate for the 12 months ending June 2023 at 112,323 American lives lost. Nearly 70% of these drug poisonings are from fentanyl.