Although fentanyl has become a leading drug for overdoses, it is a legal pharmaceutical drug. It’s a synthetic opioid for severe pain and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is letting the public know how they work to stop the dangerous drug from getting into the hands of dealers and users.
According to the CDC, the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2020 was more than 18 times the number in 2013, and more than 56,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2020.
Fentanyl is manufactured and shipped any and everywhere despite task forces, tougher criminal laws, and prevention and awareness efforts. People are still dying at an alarming rate from drug overdoses linked to fentanyl.
David Fluty with the CBP said the drug is being packaged in multiple ways.
“Early on we were seeing powdered fentanyl coming across the border. What we’re seeing now is an explosion of a different variety of pills. If you went to our laboratory, you’d see blue pills, orange pills and pink pills. Largely, I think, this is a marketing effort from the cartels being able to identify their specific product on the streets,” Fluty said.
In 2022, the CBP seized 13,000 pounds of fentanyl -- mainly at the southwest border.
Fluty also fears this drug getting into the hands of children and teens.
“One of the things I fear is being able to introduce this into the high schools, for example, having this be more of a recreational drug. Having this be more of a recreational drug, one pill could be the death of you, your friend or family member, just given the potency of the narcotic,” Fluty said. “If you look at fentanyl and compare that with traditional heroin, fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin.”
Fentanyl is getting into the country in unimaginable ways. Often times people attach the drug to themselves for a financial reward if they successfully smuggle it into the country.
“We have seen a majority of fentanyl seizures and encounters at our ports of entries secreted through packages, within vehicles, on persons, strapped to bodies and torsos and legs of individuals crossing. Smuggled as a fake prescription pill for some way or some other,” said Sidney Aki with the CBP.
To stop the transport of the drug in its tracks CBP has to be proactive and focused on identifying these encounters through partnerships and information sharing with the government of Mexico and other international partners.
Despite all the warnings of this deadly drug people are still using it. Guarding the border from it is one of many steps in an effort to stop fentanyl from getting in the wrong hands.