Dec 20, 2022 - Health

DEA seized enough fentanyl in 2022 to kill everyone in the U.S.

A bag of assorted pills and prescription drugs dropped off for disposal on April 24, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Tuesday that it seized over 379 million doses of potentially deadly fentanyl in 2022, including more than 50.6 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder.

Why it matters: Fentanyl, a highly addictive man-made opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin, is considered the deadliest drug threat in the U.S. — and a growing threat to teenagers.

Details: The trafficked fentanyl is primarily mass produced at secret factories in Mexico with chemicals largely sourced from China, according to the DEA.

  • The pills are often "made to look identical to real prescription medications — including OxyContin®, Percocet®, and Xanax® — but only contain filler and fentanyl," the DEA said.
  • Given their prevalence online, the DEA warned that people should only use medication directly prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

What they're saying: Administrator Anne Milgram said the DEA's 2022 seizures are "enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American."

  • "DEA’s top operational priority is to defeat the two Mexican drug cartels — the Sinaloa and Jalisco (CJNG) Cartels — that are primarily responsible for the fentanyl that is killing Americans today," Milgram said in a statement.

The big picture: Illegal fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for people in the U.S. ages 18 to 49, a Washington Post investigation found.

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