The Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week that it seized more than 379 million doses of fentanyl in the year 2022 — enough to kill the entire population of the U.S. and Canada.
Nemesio Oseguera-Cervantes, commonly referred to by his alias El Mencho, is the undisputed leader of Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG), one of the most ruthless Mexican drug cartels in the world. El Mencho is also on the DEA’s most-wanted list for running a crime organization that traffics an immense number of deadly narcotics, including fentanyl, into the U.S.
And he’s not alone. The Sinaloa Cartel is another ruthless drug cartel in Mexico that is a rival to CJNG. Federal authorities say it’s also sent an epic amount of fentanyl into the U.S.
Deanne Reuter is the special agent in charge of the DEA Miami Division. She oversees all DEA operations throughout the state of Florida.
Reuter says CJNG and Sinaloa Cartels are putting profits over lives.
“The cartels are trying to drive addiction and get higher profits,” Reuter said. “And they can do this by sending more and more fentanyl and methamphetamine into the U.S. to poison our communities.”
The fentanyl epidemic has become so widespread that recently, the DEA headquarters in Washington issued a nationwide alert about fake pills laced with fentanyl. It used to be that four out of every fake pill made in cartel-owned labs were laced with fentanyl. Now, the number is six out of every 10 pills.
The DEA says this year alone, agents have seized more than 50 million fake prescription pills that were really fentanyl. They also seized more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. Given that only 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to be potentially fatal if ingested, that equates to more than 379 potentially lethal doses, which is more than the entire U.S. population.
In Florida, there are an estimated 21 million residents.
“In the state of Florida, the amount of fentanyl powder and pills that were seized has the potential to kill more than 9 million Floridians,” explained Reuter.
That’s the population of Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa combined, with more leftover. Consider TIAA Bank Field, which can hold about 68,000 people.
“That’s about 132 sold-out games in the stadium to get that 9 million,” Reuter said.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 people died last year from a drug overdose. An overwhelming majority of those deaths involved fentanyl.
While the death toll for 2022 has yet to be released, the DEA recently began an online campaign called the “Faces of Fentanyl.” It’s an effort to remember the lives lost by fentanyl poisoning. To submit a photo of a loved one lost to fentanyl, the DEA asks you send their name, age and photograph to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a photo and their name to social media using the hashtag #JustKNOW.
“DEA agents every day walk through the halls of our headquarters and see these lives lost, and the reason we come to work every day is to try and save lives,” Reuter said.
Notably, the amount of seized fentanyl reported in this story is just was was seized by the DEA. It does not include seizures from police departments and other federal agencies.