Home » Report: Record-Breaking Fentanyl Pill Seizures in 2023, 115 Million Pills Captured

Report: Record-Breaking Fentanyl Pill Seizures in 2023, 115 Million Pills Captured

by Richard A Reagan

In an alarming escalation of the opioid crisis, law enforcement agencies seized a staggering 115 million fentanyl-laced pills in 2023.

This figure has more than quadrupled since 2017, according to a recent study conducted under the auspices of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and utilizing data from the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program.

The proliferation of fentanyl, primarily in pill form, has posed challenges to health and law enforcement authorities.

In 2017, approximately 50,000 pills were confiscated, but this number has dramatically increased to over 115 million in 2023. These pills often masquerade as other less potent medications, deceiving users about their true contents.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow expressed significant concern over these developments. “The main finding is how strikingly fast fentanyl is entering into the country disguised as imitator pills,” Volkow stated. “The total number of deals is just gigantic, which is very concerning.”

The study indicates that the sharp rise in seizures is partly due to increased vigilance by authorities and an overall spike in the volume of fentanyl being trafficked, primarily through the borders with Mexico and Canada.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has pinpointed China as the principal source of the fentanyl smuggled into the U.S.

Compounding the issue, earlier this month, the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party issued a report accusing the Chinese government of subsidizing the manufacture and export of illicit fentanyl. 

The report highlighted that despite Chinese laws against such practices, “thousands of PRC companies are openly selling these illicit materials on the Chinese internet—the most heavily surveilled country-wide network in the world.”

Volkow also pointed out a disturbing trend in how these fentanyl-containing pills are reaching U.S. consumers, primarily through online markets.

These transactions often attract individuals who have been refused opioid prescriptions by medical professionals, leading them to seek alternatives on the Internet where fentanyl-laced pills are cheaper and more accessible.

“It is a very dangerous time to use drugs, even just occasionally,” stated Volkow. The lack of awareness is contributing to a rise in overdose fatalities, particularly among older adults aged 65-74 and teenagers between 15-19. 

Geographically, Florida led the nation in fentanyl seizures in 2023, followed closely by Arizona and California, with the latter state seizing over 38 million pills.

The West has seen the most significant growth in seizures, especially in terms of pill volume, outpacing other regions like the Northeast, which reported the fewest incidents.

Volkow cites “greed” as a driving force behind this surge, noting the high profitability of fentanyl compared to other drugs like heroin. “You make much more money with fentanyl than you do with heroin, at least 50 times more,” she explained. “And because it’s so potent, you can transport it in much smaller volumes which can be turned into thousands of doses.”

As the U.S. grapples with this crisis, the imperative for stringent domestic enforcement becomes ever more apparent.

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