EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Border authorities seized a record amount of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in July, most of which came through U.S. ports of entry, data released this month shows.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures, officers with the agency’s Office of Field Operations seized approximately 1,800 pounds of fentanyl in July, while U.S. Border Patrol agents who guard the vast border areas between ports of entry seized about 340 pounds.
The amount of fentanyl seized by CBP personnel had fallen for two consecutive months before spiking from 700 pounds in June to 2,100 in July.
During the first ten months of this fiscal year, which began last October, officers at border crossings seized approximately 9,000 pounds of fentanyl. Border authorities seized 10,200 pounds of the drug in all of Fiscal 2021.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is manufactured primarily in clandestine labs in Mexico.
Sold as a powder or pressed to look like pharmaceutical opioid pills, fentanyl could be 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
Heroin and cocaine often are laced with fentanyl, but many users usually don’t know they are purchasing fentanyl, the DEA says.
Health and law enforcement officials blame fentanyl for the significant increase in opioid overdoses in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 31,335 overdose deaths linked to fentanyl in 2018. In 2022, more than 71,000 died from fentanyl overdoses, an increase from about 58,000 in 2021.
Federal agents have told Border Report that synthetic drugs like fentanyl and meth are cheaper to mass-produce than many other illegal drugs.
Britton Boyd, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in El Paso, recently told Border Report that gone are the days of drug cartels waiting long for cannabis or heroin-making opium poppies to grow. Nowadays, fentanyl labs and meth labs operate 24-7.
“Once you had the technological advances from pharmaceuticals … you now had a much more reliable supply of opioids through the synthetic markets,” Boyd said.
Marijuana seizures this fiscal year are down 55 percent. Border authorities seized 277,400 pounds of pot through July of last fiscal year but only 120,000 pounds during the same period this fiscal year.
According to CBP data, the drug with the most amount seized this fiscal year — 164,000 pounds — is khat, a flowering evergreen shrub native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that the DEA says users abuse for its stimulant-like effect. They chew it like tobacco or use its dry leaves to smoke, make tea, and even sprinkle it on food.