DEA: Surge in Utah Fentanyl Seizures Shows Cartels Not Slowing Down

DEA: Surge in Utah Fentanyl Seizures Shows Cartels Not Slowing Down
A recent seizure of tens of thousands of fentanyl pills in DEA's Rocky Mountain Field Division in a photo released on July 1, 2024. (DEA)

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Utah in just two weeks has seized approximately 170,000 fentanyl pills—a quarter of the amount seized in the state in all of 2023.

“The number of fentanyl pills seized just last month proves the drug cartels primarily operating in Mexico are not slowing down production and distribution of this deadly poison,” said Jonathan Pullen, special agent in charge with the DEA’s Rocky Mountain Field Division (RMFD) in a July 1 press release. “Fentanyl pills and powder are out there, and the cartels targeting Utah do not care if you and the family are in summer vacation mode.”

In the release, the DEA said the seizure equals 25.6 percent of fentanyl pill seizures in Utah last year, when over 664,000 pills of fentanyl were seized.

DEA’s entire RMFD, which covers Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, seized a total of 3.4 million fentanyl pills in 2023.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat acute pain. It is extremely addictive and consuming as little as two milligrams can prove lethal.

According to the DEA, two Mexican criminal syndicates—the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels—are mainly responsible for importing fentanyl from China before pressing it into pills or mixing it into other counterfeits to look like a genuine prescription drug tablet such as Xanax, Adderall, or oxycodone, with potentially fatal outcomes for users.

Fentanyl Pills Becoming More Lethal

Law enforcement officials are currently investigating the drugs seized in Utah, according to the DEA.

The latest seizures come after the DEA warned in May that fentanyl coming into the United States is increasingly deadly, with a “higher average purity in pills containing fentanyl” being smuggled across the border by Mexican cartels.

In its 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment report, the agency said that in 2022, the average fentanyl pill contained 2.4 milligrams (mg) of fentanyl, ranging from a low of .03 mg to a high of 9 mg.

A lethal dose of fentanyl is approximately 2mg, depending on an individual’s opiate tolerance and other factors.

DEA forensic laboratory results found that approximately 7 out of 10 fake pills contain a deadly dose of fentanyl, up from 4 in 10 pills in 2021, the agency said in its report.

Meanwhile, the average purity of the fentanyl powder samples was 19.2 percent, marking a 33 percent increase since 2021, according to the DEA’s report.

Fentanyl ‘Deadliest Drug Threat’ to Nation

“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced, killing nearly 38,000 Americans in the first six months of 2023 alone,” the report stated.

The drug, and other synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine, are responsible for “nearly all of the fatal drug overdoses and poisonings in our country,” the DEA report said.

“Synthetic drugs have transformed not only the drug landscape in the United States, with deadly consequences to public health and safety; synthetic drugs have also transformed the criminal landscape in the United States, as the drug cartels who make these drugs reap huge profits from their sale,” it concluded.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 108,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2022, including 73,838 due to synthetic opioids other than methadone—primarily fentanyl.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times