DEA points finger at Mexican cartels and social media apps after seizing record amount of fentanyl in 2021

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WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration said Thursday that officers seized an unprecedented amount of fentanyl and fake prescription pills containing dangerous levels of the deadly opioid.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said the agency had seized more than 15,000 pounds of fentanyl this year alone – enough, she said, to kill every American. Officers also seized more than 20 million fake pills designed to look like drugs such as Xanax, Adderall and Oxycontin.

Milgram told a press conference at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Va., that the pills come out of production facilities in Mexico run by drug cartels using chemicals from China.

The cartels offer them for sale on commonly used US social media sites, she said. “The cartels have exploited the perfect drug delivery tool – social media apps that are available on every smartphone in the United States.”

Milgram added that the social media strategy reached out to all age groups: “a curious teenager ordering a pill online, a college student trying a pill from a friend, an elderly neighbor searching online for a painkiller.”

She said social media companies were not doing enough to block ads for fake pills.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 100,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the United States in the past year. More than 75,000 of the deaths involved opioids – mostly fentanyl.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Monday that his government will publish a report on the fight against designer drugs like fentanyl. The report should examine seizures over the past three years.

He also denounced a DEA report which he says proposes using US assets to arrest people involved in drug trafficking in Mexico.

“No foreign authority will be authorized to make arrests in Mexican territory,” he said. In the past, “foreign agents have participated in law enforcement operations inside Mexico, but this was a flagrant violation of Mexican sovereignty.”

Mary Murray contributed.

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