More than 81 pounds of synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl, were seized in the past fiscal year, a record-setting number according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The seizure amount, of course, points to much more of the deadly synthetic slipping through the cracks and making it into the hands of those with a substance abuse disorder. The synthetic painkiller is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Authorities and research say that they believe that fentanyl is the primary culprit behind the massive increase in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2010.
Where Illicit Fentanyl Comes From
The painkiller makes its way into the US most often from China and Hong Kong. Usually disguised or hidden, the pills are usually ordered on the Internet’s dark web, sold in bulk. Once in the US, they’re then sold on the street.
CBS News reports that the majority of fentanyl in the world is produced in China, where there are few regulations and sellers can do their business relatively untouched. “What we are seizing here is hundreds of millions of dollars,” Frank Russo, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol port director for JFK Airport, said about the fentanyl. “Most of our seizures, actually all of our seizures have come from China and Hong Kong this year.”
Fentanyl is Getting Deadlier
Many of the deaths by opioids and heroin in the past several years have been attributed to the drugs being tainted by fentanyl. Just last weekend, a supply of tainted opioids being sold as Oxycontin in rural Anne Arundel, Maryland was found to be tainted. Police had seized the pills from several overdose victims.
First responders across the country have come into accidental contact with fentanyl and had to be revived by their colleagues.
It’s not even clear if the drug dealers themselves realize that the drug they are selling is tainted. Investigators agree that there is a widespread problem with fentanyl, and it’s very difficult to keep the illicit supply from coming into the country.
In Nevada, however, they believe they’ve found a better use for the deadly drug. In early September, the state announced they planned to use a combination of Fentanyl, Cisatracurium (a muscle relaxant) and diazepam (a benzodiazapam used for anxiety) in future death penalty executions. The combination is unsettlingly similar to many of the drug combinations found in overdose victims after death.
Image Courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection