Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said on Jan. 17.
The agency is calling fentanyl the "deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced."
As the DEA marks its 50th year of being the only federal agency dedicated to fighting drugs, it released statistics related to the drug and how much it really has infiltrated the U.S.
In just 2023, the DEA seized more than 77 million fentanyl pills and almost 12,000 pounds of it in power form.
"This is the most fentanyl seized by DEA in a single year. It amounts to more than 386 million deadly doses of fentanyl—enough to kill every American," the DEA said.
The agency says the pills nowadays are more potent, and deadlier, than ever before. Lab testing showed in 2023 that 7 out of 10 pills had a potentially deadly dose of the drug.
"This is an increase from 4 out of 10 pills in 2021 and 6 out of 10 pills in 2022. A potentially deadly dose is considered just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is approximately the amount that fits on the tip of a pencil," the agency said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts there will be a record number of drug poisonings in 2023. In the CDC's last estimate for the 12-month period ending in June 2023, there were 112,323 American deaths.
"Nearly 70% of these drug poisonings are from fentanyl," the DEA said.
PLACENTIA, CA - April 06: A billboard put up by Families Against Fentanyl displays their message on the 57 freeway near Orangethorpe Ave. in Placentia, CA on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Jim Rauh founded Families Against Fentanyl after it claimed the life of his 37-year-old son, Thomas, in 2015. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
What's the DEA doing about these staggering numbers? Here is the agency's explanation:
"DEA’s mission is to save American lives by defeating the two cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of fentanyl that is flooding our country: the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel. DEA has built a new strategic layer of Counter Threat Teams to focus on each cartel and the illicit finance networks that fund them both. These Counter Threat Teams draw on the intelligence from our 334 offices around the world to map the cartels’ global networks and to identify targets for investigation and prosecution. While the cartels’ operations are based in Mexico, DEA has identified more than 50 additional countries where these criminal networks operate. DEA has also traced the cartels’ global supply chain around the world. The cartels purchase chemicals from companies in China, mass produce the fentanyl in Mexico, and then traffic and distribute finished fentanyl widely throughout the United States. In 2023, DEA took actions to disrupt every step of this fentanyl supply chain—from bringing the first-ever charges against Chinese chemical companies and their owners for supplying precursor chemicals, to charging and extraditing leaders, enforcers, and associates of the cartels in Mexico, to tracking down the criminal organizations and individuals in our communities responsible for the last mile of distribution of fentanyl on our streets and on social media."