PHOENIX - A deadly drug is pouring into the United States at an alarming rate, and on Thursday, DEA agents in Phoenix announced they have seized more than one million fentanyl pills so far this year.
In 2018, that number was 380,000, and it has already led to hundreds of deaths here in the state this year.
Five years ago, Phoenix DEA agents say there were zero fentanyl seizures.
DEA agents say it is easy to make fentanyl in large quantities. It's strong and cheap, making it a very dangerous drug.
"Every year, we are doubling the amount that we are seizing, so it is clearly an ongoing issue, and more is coming in," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. "It is a product Americans are demanding. It is a product the Mexican cartels say, 'hey, we can make this and people want this.'"
Special Agent in Charge Coleman says the scary thing about this drug is that it's designed to resemble Oxycodone tablets, which are not as strong as fentanyl. He says this is why this drug is leading to a high number of overdoses.
"We see so many broken families, so many heartbroken parents behind the fact that their kid, who is a good kid, who took a couple of pills that he thought would react like oxy does, and he never woke up," said Special Agent in Charge Coleman.
Preliminary data from health services shows 344 Arizonans have died of a fentanyl overdose since the beginning of 2019. Agents say this is on track to exceed last year's deaths.
"I know you have an addiction problem, don't take this particular drug because we don't want you to die. We are the DEA. We want to arrest the bad guys and help the Americans that have problems with this," said Special Agent in Charge Coleman.
They say the popularity and creation of this drug have skyrocketed, and the cartels making it are starting to put it in different forms, like play-doh or powder, so it can go undetected.