The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced on Thursday that it made more than 800 arrests and seized more than 1.8 million fake pills as part of a two-month operation and crackdown on fentanyl-laced fake pills.
Working with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, the DEA seized 1.8 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and arrested 810 drug traffickers in cities, suburbs, and rural communities across the United States.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s blamed for an escalating overdose death rate in the United States. It’s most often manufactured in Mexico using chemicals supplied from China, and mixed with other narcotics to increase potency, as well as pressed into counterfeit pain pills commonly known as “Mexican oxys.”
In the past, fentanyl had mainly been mixed with heroin to boost the drug’s potency, but now it’s often pressed into small blue tablets and stamped with “M30” to closely match the color and markings of prescription oxycodone pills. Buyers may be unaware the pills contain fentanyl, of which a 2 mg dose can be fatal.
“Opioids were responsible for nearly three-quarters of the more than 93,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States in 2020,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement on Thursday. “The pervasiveness of these illicit drugs, and the fatal overdoses that too often result, is a problem that cuts across America from small towns to big cities and everything in between.”
DEA administrator Anne Milgram said that as part of the eight-week operation, DEA targeted the criminal drug networks flooding the country with fentanyl-laced fake pills.
“The fentanyl-laced fake pills seized by DEA could potentially kill more than 700,000 Americans. I urge the American public today to talk to their loved ones about the threats and dangers of fake pills and the simple fact that one pill can kill,” Milgram added.
According to DEA laboratory testing, 4 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose. Further, the number of fake pills containing fentanyl has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019.
Also seized by the DEA as part of the operation was 712 kilograms (1,570 pounds) of fentanyl powder, which it says is sufficient to potentially make tens of millions of lethal pills, the Justice Department.
Authorities also seized nearly 8,843 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,440 pounds of cocaine, and 158 weapons. Multiple felony charges are pending as a result of the operation for crimes including drug distribution and drug trafficking.
“This is a national emergency,” Milgram told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday “And this is just the start of the work that the DEA will do to address it.”
According to a U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) report published in August, China remains the primary source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances being trafficked into the United States, despite the Chinese regime banning fentanyl and its analogs in 2019.
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.