DEA seized enough fentanyl to kill every American in 2022

Officials seized more than 50 million fentanyl-laced pills this year.

December 20, 2022, 7:52 PM

The Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday said it has seized more than 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl this year, as the country continues to struggle with an epidemic of drug overdose deaths.

The seizures include 50.6 million pills laced with the ultra-deadly synthetic opioid and 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, the DEA said.

“These seizures – enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American – reflect the DEA’s unwavering commitment to protect Americans and save lives, by tenaciously pursuing those responsible for the trafficking of fentanyl across the United States," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement Friday.

Rainbow Fentanyl on display.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)/Flickr

Due to its potency, fentanyl is more easily transported across borders and often laced with drugs used recreationally, including powdered cocaine. Some pills are made to look like prescription drugs including Xanax, Percocet and OxyContin.

Opioid overdose deaths rose sharply among teens during the pandemic, largely driven by fentanyl, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year.

The study found that deaths from opioid overdoses in teens ages 14 to 18 increased by 94% between 2019 and 2020, and by an additional 20% between 2020 and 2021.

Researchers found that adolescent fentanyl-related overdose deaths leaped 350% over the study between 2019 and 2020. Overall, fentanyl was associated with 77% of adolescent overdose deaths in 2021.

The seizures announced Tuesday represent just part of the massive flow of deadly illegal drugs flowing into the U.S. Last October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,825.72 pounds of fentanyl at ports of entry along the southern border, putting authorities on track to exceed the 11,904 pounds seized during the entire previous year.

The DEA said two Mexican criminal organizations -- the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels -- are the primary sources behind fentanyl trafficked into the U.S. Administrator Milgram said defeating the two cartels were the agency's "top operational priority."

Using chemicals shipped in from China, the DEA said criminal organizations create fentanyl in undercover factories before shipping pills and powder to the U.S.

ABC News' Eli Cahan contributed to this report.

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