Border Patrol agents seize 254 pounds of fentanyl

Fentanyl encounters in the United States have increased over time.

Illustration / Victoria Gasca

Fentanyl encounters in the United States have increased over time.

On January 26, 2019, United States Customs and Border Protection made the largest seizure of fentanyl – an addictive opioid drug – in the agency’s history at the Nogales port of entry, along the US-Mexico border.

As reported widely, nearly 650 pounds of illegal drugs were found and removed from the trailer. These drugs were concealed within a tractor-trailer transporting produce. According to Port Director Michael Humphries, officers uncovered 100 packages of fentanyl (weighing nearly 254 pounds) with an estimated value of $3.5 million and 300 packages of methamphetamine (around 395 pound)s worth $1.18 million. This was also the third-largest seizure of meth in Arizona ports of entry.

Fentanyl is a synthetically-produced opioid; this means that unlike morphine or heroin – which are derived from opium poppy – synthetics are purely manufactured from chemicals. Fentanyl is up to 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. About .25 milligrams could kill a human. To put this into perspective, one 81 mg baby aspirin tablet cut into 324 pieces would equal a quarter-milligram.

“This amount of fentanyl our CBP officers prevented from entering our country equates to an unmeasurable, dangerous amount of an opioid that could have harmed so many families,” Humphries said, according the Arizona Daily Star.

Fentanyl isn’t just dangerous to users, but also a threat to anyone who comes in contact with it; fentanyl can enter through the skin or through inhalation. It also happens to be the most commonly used drug involved in overdoses.

According to a recent government report, the rate of synthetic opioid skyrocketed by about 113% each year from 2013 through 2016. Nearly 26% of deaths in 2016 were caused by fentanyl, and in 2011, four percent of fatalities were caused by fentanyl.