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Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 19 million deadly fentanyl doses in Ohio, surrounding states last year

These pills were made to look like Oxycodone, but they're actually an illicit form of the potent painkiller fentanyl. A surge in police seizures of illicit fentanyl parallels a rise in overdose deaths.
Tommy Farmer
/
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/AP
These pills were made to look like Oxycodone, but they're actually an illicit form of the potent painkiller fentanyl. A surge in police seizures of illicit fentanyl parallels a rise in overdose deaths.

In Ohio, Michigan, and northern Kentucky, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 280,000 pills laced with fentanyl and more than 600 pounds of fentanyl powder last year.

That's more than 19 million deadly doses of the drug, the agency estimates.

It's a tiny fraction of the more than 379 million lethal doses the DEA said agents confiscated nationwide in 2022.

“These seizures – enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American – reflect the DEA’s unwavering commitment to protect Americans and save lives, by tenaciously pursuing those responsible for the trafficking of fentanyl across the United States," administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement released Wednesday.

Fentanyl is a man-made opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Milgram said the DEA’s top priority is to defeat the two Mexican drug cartels—the Sinaloa and Jalisco (CJNG) Cartels—that are primarily responsible for the fentanyl that is killing Americans.

The DEA said these cartels are mass-producing fentanyl-laced pills with chemicals largely sourced from China. They are made to look identical to prescription medications, such as OxyContin®, Percocet®, and Xanax®.

“Fentanyl in pill form is a deliberate attempt by drug cartels to make illicit drug use more appealing to Americans. We have seized fentanyl in just about every size, shape and color in both Michigan and Ohio,” said DEA Detroit Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene.

Nationally, the DEA seized over 50.6 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills—more than double what the agency seized in 2021—along with more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder.

The DEA also seized nearly 131,000 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 4,300 pounds of heroin, and over 444,000 pounds of cocaine.

Matthew Rand is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher.