DEA Phoenix Seizes over 8 Million Fentanyl Pills During Operation

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Wednesday that an operation spanning four months seized millions of illicit fentanyl pills.

“On the frontline as we race to save lives, DEA Arizona continues to seize historic amounts of deadly fentanyl,” said Cheri Oz, the Phoenix DEA Special Agent in Charge of the operation. “It is terrifying that the drug cartels are mimicking candy to make fentanyl appear harmless. We need your help spreading the word about the dangers of fentanyl. It’s a matter of life and death.”

The Arizona Sun Times reached out to the DEA for more information but did not receive a response.

The operation was part of the DEA’s “One Pill Can Kill” initiative, which seeks to raise awareness of illicit fentanyl pills. Between May 23 and September 8, the DEA and its law enforcement agencies seized 10.2 million counterfeit fentanyl pills and 980 pounds of fentanyl powder across the nation. Of the pills seized, roughly 8 million reportedly came from the Phoenix area alone. Aside from the opioids, officials also confiscated 338 weapons, including rifles, shotguns, pistols, and hand grenades.

A total of 390 investigations occurred; 51 of those cases were linked to overdoses. Additionally, 35 cases were linked directly to major Mexican cartels – the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel – which the DEA stated significantly contribute to flooding the U.S. with fentanyl. Social media also played a role in the investigations, as 129 were linked to Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and TikTok.

Moreover, the DEA shared that the amount of fentanyl taken is equivalent to over 36 million lethal doses. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly depending on the user’s body size and tolerance. Roughly two in every five pills tested by the DEA contain over the lethal dose, and a kilogram of the drug is enough to kill approximately 500,000 people. The average fentanyl pill weighs roughly one-tenth of a gram, which means that the 10.2 million pills seized by the DEA would weigh around 1020 kilograms, enough to hypothetically kill 510,000,000 people.

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in the nation. A total of 107,622 people died from a drug overdose in 2021, and 66 percent (71,030) of those were caused by fentanyl.

The DEA shared that illicit fentanyl pills are made to look like legal drugs, such as Oxycodone. A side-by-side comparison shows that the fake pills look strikingly similar to their authentic counterparts, although the counterfeit pills have larger markings with fatter lines.

However, even more concerning is the abundance of “rainbow fentanyl” found by the DEA in Arizona. These multi-colored pills were first discovered in February and look like candy. The DEA fears these pills are used to attract younger users to the addictive drug, which could have deadly results.

In December 2021, the DEA reported confiscating 20,000,000 pills during the year, more than in the prior two years combined.

Furthermore, fentanyl is also a constant issue at the U.S. southern border. Since August 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents recorded seizing 14,730 pounds of fentanyl, equal to roughly 66,814,156 pills, 40 percent of which could be deadly.

As reported by The Sun Times, Phoenix police recorded the largest one-time fentanyl bust in department history on Friday, seizing roughly 950,000 pills. Two suspects were involved and booked into Maricopa County jail. Moreover, as reported on Arizona Sun Times Sunday, two women were indicted by the Maricopa County Grand Jury for possessing over 850,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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