U.S. Drug Agency Doubles Its Catch of Fentanyl-Laced Pills in 2022

The Drug Enforcement Administration confiscated more than 379 million doses of fentanyl this year, the agency said, and it seized more than double the number of pills laced with the potent synthetic opioid than it seized last year.

The agency announced in a statement on Tuesday that it had confiscated more than 50.6 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills in 2022, as well as more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. The fake pills were made to resemble common prescription medications including Xanax and OxyContin, but were made with filler and fentanyl.

That was more than twice the number of fentanyl-laced pills than the agency confiscated in 2021, when it said it seized 20.4 million fake prescription pills. More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency did not clarify how much fentanyl powder had been seized in 2021.

Anne Milgram, the D.E.A. administrator, said “the men and women of the D.E.A. have relentlessly worked” to seize fentanyl “from communities across the country.”

She added that the agency’s “top operational priority” is to defeat the Sinaloa and Jalisco drug cartels from Mexico that she said were “primarily responsible for the fentanyl that is killing Americans today.”

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing the country, the agency said. It is a highly addictive man-made opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose. Fentanyl, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine, was linked to the deaths of more than 70,000 Americans in 2021.

The agency said that most of the fentanyl trafficked in the United States by the cartels was being “mass-produced” at clandestine factories in Mexico, often using chemicals sourced from China, according to the agency.

Last year, the D.E.A. issued a public safety alert about the widespread trafficking of lethal fentanyl-laced and methamphetamine-laced fake prescription pills.

The tablets laced with it are produced to look identical to real prescription medications such as OxyContin, Percocet and Xanax “but only contain filler and fentanyl and are often deadly,” the agency said. Users can find the fake pills online.

“No pharmaceutical pill bought on social media is safe,’’ the agency warned.

Last month, the D.E.A. warned that the fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl were getting deadlier. The agency said that its laboratory testing had found that six out of 10 of those pills contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, up from four in 10 last year.

In its announcement on Tuesday, the agency said it had also seized nearly 131,000 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 4,300 pounds of heroin and over 444,000 pounds of cocaine this year.

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