The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) marked May 10 as “National Fentanyl Awareness Day” in order to make more citizens aware of the life-threatening dangers posed by the synthetic opioid.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than 107,600 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in November 2021, 66 percent of which were attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, caused more than 71,000 deaths last year, a 23 percent jump from 2020, the CDC said.
Overall, overdose deaths jumped 15 percent from the previous record in 2020.
Among this demographic, fentanyl deaths increased by 1.7 times between 2020 and 2021. Since 2015, deaths from gun homicides, suicides, and car accidents have remained almost the same while deaths from fentanyl have risen significantly.
Drug traffickers are lacing other drugs with fentanyl to drive up addiction. As such, many people unknowingly consume fentanyl and risk an overdose. According to the DEA, just two milligrams of fentanyl is considered to be a “potentially lethal dose.”
A group of bipartisan senators also has introduced a Senate resolution that seeks to officially designate May 10 as National Fentanyl Awareness Day.
The role of China in creating the fentanyl epidemic in America is significant. Chinese companies are presently the largest producer of the chemicals necessary to create fentanyl, and the DEA is focusing on those ingredients in a bid to prevent the opioid from getting into counterfeit drugs.
The DEA expects China to “do more” on the issue. The agency wants the ability to track every shipment of chemicals from Chinese companies that's transported to Mexico, but currently isn't in a position to do so.
Between January 2021 and March 2022, the DEA seized 2,100 pounds of precursor chemicals, which would be enough to create a billion potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
Milgram acknowledges that her agency isn't seizing every shipment of precursor chemicals.
“This is what we worry about,” she said.
“That's part of why we are so focused right now on stopping the chemicals coming out of the Chinese chemical companies. If we can go as far upstream as possible to China, we have a much better chance of stopping it ever being made in Mexico.”