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Fentanyl Threat: DEA Marks 50 Years with Record Seizures and Renewed Focus on Cartels

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Commercial Facility seized nearly $4.6 million in fentanyl and methamphetamine totaling close to 650 pounds on Saturday, January 26, 2019 from a Mexican national when he attempted to enter the United States through the Port of Nogales. The seizure is the largest seizure of fentanyl in CBP history. The methamphetamine seizure represents the third largest at an Arizona port. CBP photo by Jerry Glaser.

Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2024) – As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) celebrates its 50th anniversary, the agency is also grappling with the deadliest drug threat the nation has ever faced: fentanyl. This potent synthetic opioid, now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45, demands an unprecedented response, and DEA is taking action.

Record Seizures and Deadlier Doses:

In 2023, DEA seized over 77 million fentanyl pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, the highest amount ever confiscated in a single year. This translates to over 386 million potentially deadly doses, highlighting the alarming scale of the crisis.

The threat is further amplified by the increasing potency of fentanyl pills. DEA lab tests show that 7 out of 10 pills tested in 2023 contained a potentially lethal dose, compared to 4 out of 10 in 2021 and 6 out of 10 in 2022. Just two milligrams, roughly the amount on a pencil tip, can be fatal.

Targeting the Source:

Responding to this emergency, DEA is laser-focused on dismantling the two cartels responsible for most of the fentanyl flooding the country: the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels. New Counter Threat Teams have been established to map their global networks, identify key players, and disrupt their illicit financial operations.

These efforts extend beyond Mexico. DEA has identified over 50 countries involved in the cartels’ operations and traced their entire supply chain, from sourcing chemicals in China to manufacturing fentanyl in Mexico and distributing it across the US.

Unwavering Commitment:

In 2023, DEA took significant steps to combat the fentanyl crisis:

  • First-ever charges against Chinese chemical companies for supplying precursor chemicals.
  • Apprehension and extradition of cartel leaders and associates in Mexico.
  • Targeting criminal organizations and individuals responsible for distributing fentanyl within the US.

These actions demonstrate DEA’s unwavering commitment to protecting American lives. The agency remains vigilant, utilizing data-driven intelligence and innovative strategies to tackle the evolving fentanyl threat and safeguard the nation’s future.