PHOENIX - Drug enforcement officials in the Phoenix area say fentanyl is still on the rise, and getting much worse.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive. It is 50 times more potent than heroin, and 100 times more potent than morphine. According to data from DEA laboratory testing, six out of 10 pills DEA agents seize contain a lethal dose of fentanyl, a rise from four out of 10 previously.
Meanwhile, demand for these pills have been ramping up.
"They use pills because they are deceptive, because they seem to innocent," said Cheri Oz. "We have to start talking about fentanyl. We have to get the news out. This is more than half. Six out of every 10 pills has a lethal dose. That is an incredibly dangerous number."
The pills are largely produced by the Sinaloa Cartels in Mexico who come up through Srizona, use clandestine labs, and then distribute throughout the rest of the country.
"The Sinaloa Cartel is primarily using Arizona as a gateway to the rest of the United States," said Oz. "We can link cases here in Arizona, seizures we have made to every state in the United States, so we are really the head of the snake."
Cartels make the fake pills to look like other pills, like oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall, and sometimes Advil. They also come in all shapes and colors.
"Saying no saves lives, and that works 100% of the time," said Oz. "When we say one pill can kill, it really is one pill, one time. There is no experimentation. There is no trying it. You don’t get a second chance."
In 2021, DEA officials seized more than 20.4 million fake prescription pills. Earlier in 2022, they conducted a nationwide operation to target fentanyl-laced pills, and in just over three months, they got 10.2 million fake pills.
Getting these pills, unfortunately, now remains easier than ever.
"If you are on any social media app, the cartels can get to you, and they are clever in their marketing," said Oz. "These pills seem so innocent, and they are not. They are dangerous and deadly. Do not be fooled."
According to the CDC, more than 107,000 people died of drug poisoning in 2021, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic Opioids like Fentanyl.