A bag of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills seized by law enforcement. In the last two months, Homeland Security Investigations agents have seized as much fentanyl as they did in all of 2019, officials said Monday. (Sherri Hobson / U.S. Attorney’s Office)
FROM LA TIMES:
In the last two months, agents with Homeland Security Investigations have seized as much fentanyl as they did in all of 2019, federal officials said, warning that the amount of the drug hitting the streets is increasing every year with deadly consequences.
Last year, there were 71,000 fentanyl-related deaths in the United States, including 1,600 in Los Angeles County, U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada of the Central District of California said at a Monday news conference in L.A.
“Fentanyl has painted a trail of death across the country, across our district and across our community,” Estrada said. “The crisis today is unprecedented.”
The dangers are especially heightened in L.A. County, which has turned into a major distribution hub for fentanyl as Mexican drug cartels have flooded the streets with cheaply manufactured counterfeit pills, often disguised to look like prescription painkillers such as oxycodone.
On Monday, officials with the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service raised alarms about the continued growth of fentanyl.
In many cases, officials said, the victims of fentanyl overdoses are unaware that the drugs they are taking contain fentanyl, which is considered significantly stronger than heroin and morphine and can be lethal at far smaller doses.
“The widespread death and suffering is being driven by drug cartels who care far more about profits than people’s lives,” Estrada said. “These drug-trafficking organizations continue finding ways of getting large shipments of fentanyl into the country.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often prescribed as a pain medication, but it has also been illicitly produced and sold, often mixed with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
The recent influx of fentanyl to the United States has contributed to the country's opioid epidemic and has been a major public health concern. Fentanyl is often produced in China and shipped to the United States through the mail or smuggled across the border.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies have seized increasing amounts of the drug, indicating that it is becoming more widely available. Fentanyl is also often mixed with other drugs without the user's knowledge, which can increase the risk of overdose and death.
The opioid epidemic in the United States has been fueled in part by the overprescribing of opioid pain medications, but the influx of fentanyl has made the problem even more severe. The drug is highly addictive and can be deadly even in small doses, and it has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in the country.
The U.S. government has taken a number of steps to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing funding for treatment and prevention programs, cracking down on the illegal production and distribution of opioids, and working with international partners to disrupt the flow of fentanyl into the country. However, the problem persists and continues to have a significant impact on public health and safety.