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DEA seizes record amount of fentanyl nationwide and in Montana

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Feb 01, 2024

A growing crisis continues to plague the nation and Montana.

Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between ages 18 and 45, according to the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA seized a record amount of fentanyl pills and powder in 2023 and the Treasure State is not immune.

Now those seizures are saving millions of lives, but officials say the numbers also prove that there is much work to be done.

Nationwide, more than 112,000 people died from drug overdoses with about 70% or more than 78,000 attributed to fentanyl.

DEA agents seized 77 million fentanyl pills and 12,000 pounds of powder in 2023.

"These announcements are not cause for celebration,” said David Olesky, DEA Rocky Mountain Division special agent in-charge. “It is actually helps paint the sobering reality of the extent to which the cartels are flooding our communities with this poisonous drug."

Two milligrams is a lethal dose, so the DEA says that's enough fentanyl to kill every American.

"It's more than 386 million lives that we say have been saved," Olesky said.

The DEA Rocky Mountain Field Division, which includes Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, announced that the amount of fentanyl seized in the region increased 78% from 319 kilograms in 2022 to 567 kilograms or 1,250 pounds in 2023.

That seizure amounts to 3.4 million pills, 106,500 in Montana, and 23,700 in Wyoming.

"The two primary sources for fentanyl as well as methamphetamine which continues to come into our country is from south of our border,” Olesky said. “What typically we end up seeing from a trafficking point of view is that you will end up having what we call couriers come down from the Billings area head into Wyoming, head into the Denver area and they will make a round trip come down and go back."

Those pills can be fentanyl or something containing fentanyl made to look like a prescription drug.

"They are not intending to take fentanyl,” Olesty said. “There are still people out there who are seeking maybe a black market oxy pill, a pain relief pill. So many folks suffer from pain and they look to this alternative."

Olesky says while the seizure is big, there's still a lot of work for the DEA and local law enforcement.

“National and international level is, we are going to continue to remain laser-focused on the two cartels that are most responsible for trafficking is poisoned into our communities,” Olesky said. “And they're the Sinaloa cartel and Jalisco cartel."

And as deadly as fentanyl is, Olesky suggests talking about the threat with children and other relatives.

"If one pill can kill, then one conversation can save a life,” he said.