Mass Fentanyl Overdoses On The Rise, Officials Warn

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By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square Contributory 

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Anne Milgram is sounding the alarm about a rise in fentanyl-related mass overdose deaths.

In a memo issued to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, Milgram states, “The DEA is seeing a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass-overdose events involving three or more overdoses occurring close in time at the same location. In just the past two months, there have been at least 7 confirmed mass overdose events across the United States resulting in 58 overdoses and 29 overdose deaths. Many of the victims of these mass overdose events thought they were ingesting cocaine and had no idea that they were in fact ingesting fentanyl.”

Fentanyl has become the drug of choice of Mexican cartels that control both sides of the U.S. southern border. The cartels are flooding the country with deadly fentanyl and methamphetamine — in part through illegal immigration, border secuity officials say. The precursors are shipped from China to Mexican ports, where cartel employees make fake opioid pills or lace other narcotics with the deadly drug. It’s less expensive to produce and easier to transport, doesn’t require farms or large facilities, and can be compounded in people’s homes and garages, then brought north by cartel operatives or illegal immigrants in backpacks.

Fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl are made to look like authentic prescription pills manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and only legally available with a prescription from a doctor. OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, prescribed to manage pain, often are misused and can be highly addictive. The overdose deaths are occurring because drug dealers are marketing and selling products like cocaine that’s laced with fentanyl or fake prescription pills made of fillers and fentanyl, resulting in unaware buyers ingesting them, overdosing, and, for some, dying.

Last October, the outgoing division chief of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Kyle W. Williamson, said the cartel-driven opioid crisis in the United States has escalated. His message came after the Drug Enforcement Agency issued its first urgent public safety alert in six years, warning about the alarming increase of available fake prescription pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Williamson told the El Paso Times the drug crisis in the United States is “the worst it’s ever been. There’s no good news here. And the amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl coming in right now is unprecedented.”

Milgram’s warning lists examples of mass incidents of fentanyl-related deaths that recently occurred in Florida, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Washington D.C..

In March, six individuals overdosed in Wilton Manors, Florida after being exposed to what they thought was cocaine — but the substance they ingested contained fentanyl. In Texas, 21 individuals at a homeless shelter in downtown Austin overdosed after they ingested crack-cocaine and methamphetamine laced with fentanyl. Three died.

Also in March, three people died in Cortez, Colorado after they ingested what they thought were 30-milligram oxycodone pills — but were actually fake prescription pills containing fentanyl.

In February, in Omaha, Nebraska four people overdosed, two of whom died, after ingesting a substance that they thought was cocaine but contained fentanyl. In St. Louis, eight people overdosed, seven of whom died, after ingesting crack cocaine laced with fentanyl.

In January, in the same city block in Washington D.C., 10 people overdosed, nine of whom died, after ingesting crack cocaine laced with fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is highly addictive, found in all 50 states, and drug traffickers are increasingly mixing it with other types of drugs – in powder and pill form – in an effort to drive up addiction and attract repeat buyers,” Milgram said. “This is creating a frightening nationwide trend where many overdose victims are dying after unknowingly ingesting fentanyl.”


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