UPDATED 7:25 AM PT – Friday, June 3, 2022
The Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso, Texas has warned of a possible surge in drug overdoses. According to the agency, nine patients were taken to local hospitals after experiencing signs of overdoses over a span of around 36-hours last week. Additionally, El Paso police reported two people died from an accidental overdose last month.
Carlos Briano, a spokesperson for the El Paso DEA, said an opioid epidemic is taking place in the community. He stressed using any substance not prescribed by medical professionals can be very dangerous.
“The only substance that is safe to consume is one that is prescribed to you by a doctor or by a dentist and that you obtained from a licensed pharmacy,” Briano stated. “Anything else, you are playing with your life.”
The spokesperson also pointed out that in 2021 the agency seized more fentanyl than the previous five years combined as cartels have continued to smuggle the deadly substance into the US.
“Cartels are making fentanyl to appear to be a legitimate medication, in a side-by-side comparison they are almost indistinguishable,” he explained. “The way we can tell is through a laboratory analysis.”
Briano said the agency’s ultimate goal is to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and warn the public of the dangers. The El Paso County Medical Examiner reported 64 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2021, which is a 45 percent increase from the previous year. As authorities in the region deal with the impact of the deadly substance, Colorado is also seeing a high amount of fentanyl flood the the state’s borders.
On Wednesday, authorities in Colorado announced they have already seized more fentanyl this year so far than in all of 2021. The state patrol said they have seized over 2 million dosage units of the synthetic opioid across Colorado’s communities in 2022. This is approximately 400,000 more than 2021. Fentanyl overdoses have also risen in the state, swelling to 540 in 2020 and then doubling to 905 in 2021.
Authorities have said their efforts seemed like a “drop in the bucket” compared to the criminal enterprises manufacturing and distributing the illicit drug.
“It is now June 1 and we’ve seen about 225 pounds of fentanyl,” said Col. Matthew Packard of the Colorado State Patrol. “We talk about how deadly it is and we’re talking about the top of a pin, 225 pounds year to date that Colorado state troopers have taken out of cars being smuggled into Colorado. I think it’s collaborative law enforcement efforts, it’s harm reduction, it’s community engagement and it’s caring about your neighbor. It’s all of those things, the only way we’re going to be successful about this.”
According to the CDC, more than 71,000 Americans died from fentanyl overdoses last year, which is an increase of around 14,000 from 2020.