DEA announces record fentanyl seizures as local cops eye future of drug

Jan 10, 2023, 7:31 AM

DENVER — The Rocky Mountain Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration on Monday announced record fentanyl seizures in 2022, including those of nearly 2 million fentanyl pills.

According to a statement from the division, agents in the region that includes Utah, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming also confiscated more than 150 pounds of fentanyl powder.

Nationally in the same time frame, the DEA sized 50.6 million fentanyl pills and over 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder—enough, agents say, to create 379 million potentially lethal doses of the drug.

“For the first time in my 31-year law enforcement career, we are seeing an oversaturated drug market,” Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser said in the statement. “Anyone, including our kids, can buy dangerous and deadly drugs at the click of a button. This is like nothing we’ve experienced before and it makes our jobs as narcotics officers far more challenging and critical than ever before.”

Sgt. Justin Gordon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Team said 10 years ago, fentanyl wasn’t even on the radar of street cops.

In recent years, he told KSL TV, it has started to turn up everywhere.

“Every bust, every search warrant — it seems like we’re finding fentanyl, mainly in pill form,” Gordon said. “It’s becoming common now.”

Gordon said he believed cartels were ultimately trying to replace another, more common drug with fentanyl.

“In my opinion doing this job for a long time, I think they’re trying to replace heroin,” Gordon said. “I think this is easier to get up here, it’s easier to manufacture. It’s more potent. You can have a smaller amount that does the job for them.”

Gordon said unlike heroin, fentanyl does not require a large farming operation and also does not have an odor that is as easy to detect as heroin, thus lowering the risk during transport.

“And, you know, smaller packages gets more here,” he observed.

DEA agents have characterized fentanyl as the “deadliest drug threat facing this country.”

“It is a highly addictive man-made opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin,” the DEA statement read. “Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose.”

Gordon said he also had concerns about fentanyl falling into the hands of children. He urged parents to watch for changes in behavior — including declining grades and ambition — that could potentially prove to be signs of possible drug use.

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DEA announces record fentanyl seizures as local cops eye future of drug