PUBLISHED: 12:43 EDT, 31 March 2022 | UPDATED: 14:06 EDT, 31 March 2022By MANSUR SHAHEEN
Fentanyl has fueled a surge in drug overdose deaths in the U.S., accounting for 70,000 of the record 105,000 deaths from October 2020 to 2021
The synthetic opioid is often a contaminate in illicitly purchased cocaine, heroin or Xanax
A majority of fentanyl comes from Mexico, and DEA and border officials are asking for more resources to screen cargo that comes in from the border
Fentanyl use in America is rocketing, leading to a surge of deaths from the synthetic opioids and seizures by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 9,969,551 pills containing fentanyl were seized by law enforcement like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2021, a 30-fold jump from the 290,304 seized in 2018.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are highly dangerous, and have fueled a drug crisis that is now responsible for over 100,000 American deaths every year.
Fentanyl is largely sourced from Mexico, and experts point to the southern border crisis as the source of many of these drugs being trafficked into America.
'An increase in illicit pills containing fentanyl points to a new and increasingly dangerous period in the United States,' Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the NIH, said in a statement.
'Pills are often taken or snorted by people who are more naïve to drug use, and who have lower tolerances. When a pill is contaminated with fentanyl, as is now often the case, poisoning can easily occur.'
Fentanyl seizures by law enforcement has been spiking for three years now. From 2018 to 2019, the increase in seizures jumped five-fold, to over 1.5 million pills founds to be laced with the drug.
The figure then more than doubled to 4,149,037 in 2020, before doubling again in 2021.
Fentanyl is not used on purpose by people, as it his highly potent and can almost instantly kill somebody if used.
It is instead used as a synthetic agent in many illicit drugs like heroin, Xanax, cocaine and others, leaving many of the people who overdose and die from it totally unaware.
'Many people who use heroin already expect fentanyl to be in the drug supply and are aware of the dangers,' Dr Joseph Palmar, an associate professor of population health at NYU, said.
'But people who buy pills illegally on the 'street' that are said to be Xanax or oxycodone can overdose if such pills are laced with fentanyl, even trace amounts.
'This places a much wider population at risk that may not be expecting their drugs to be adulterated,'
Fentanyl first made its way onto the radar of the DEA in 2013, and it has since exacerbated what was already a desperate opioid and overdose crisis in the U.S.
Most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that a record 105,752 Americans died of a drug overdose from October 2020 to 2021, the most ever during a 12 month period.
Nearly 70,000 of those deaths were caused by a synthetic opioid like fentanyl. Per the NIH research team, pills account for around 30 percent of fentanyl seizures, meaning this spike is just a share of the overall problem.
Powdered drugs like cocaine that contain fentanyl also increased 263 percent during the three year period, researchers report.
Many experts believe that the drugs are flowing in from the southern border, and officials have argued for more resources to control the flow of product from Mexico, and to track down illicit material as it comes in.
The Washington Post reported in February that the process of screening a car for drugs or other illegal goods can be long and arduous.
Currently, officials only have the resources to screen around five percent of cars coming across the border, making it near impossible to stop the flow of drugs.
'It's not just a gap in our security, it's a gaping hole in our security... it's resulting in lives being lost,' Ohio Sen Rob Portman, a Republican, said last month on the senate floor.
SOURCE: Daily Mail UK