Drug overdoses took the lives of more than 107,500 Americans in the 12 months to June 2022, with the synthetic opioid fentanyl playing a role in almost nine in 10 of these deaths.
Originally developed to meet a need for more potent painkillers, fentanyl is now a cheap and abundant street drug. Since the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, over 165,900 people have died from opioid overdoses, with fentanyl use spiraling upward.
During the past seven years, soaring quantities of fentanyl have been manufactured abroad and smuggled into the U.S. through Mexico, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is now directly aiming at the Mexican cartels and the fentanyl epidemic.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram acknowledged that the government remained too focused on heroin at the onset of the crisis, as Mexican traffickers ramped up production of synthetic opioids.
“It is a new, deeper, more deadly threat than we have ever seen, and I don’t think that the full extent of that harm was immediately seen in 2015,” Milgram said.
Potential Republican presidential candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has called for more robust border control.
“Law and order also means having strong borders,” DeSantis said in his State of the State Address in January. “We have a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past year that’s witnessed staggering amounts of illegal migration and a massive influx of narcotics such as fentanyl.”
Nationally, deaths among black people have overtaken the rate in the white population, and deadly overdoses among Native Americans are also surging.