Last week, the federal government announced one of the largest fentanyl drug busts ever, containing 254 pounds of the synthetic drug.
The bust occurred at the Nogales, Arizona border onboard a truck that hid the pills under cucumbers. Alongside the powerful opioid, there was also 354 pounds of methamphetamine. Both drugs have been on the rise in America the past few years, with fentanyl deaths outpacing other opioid deaths rapidly. At its current pace, according to US Customs and Border Control, the opioid epidemic kills ninety people a day.
The fentanyl in the seizure is valued $3.5 million and is twice the size of a haul discovered in a truck stopped by state troopers in Nebraska in 2017.
Fentanyl is quickly becoming one of the deadliest opioids in the United States, and it often comes to the US via China, passing through US Customs undetected. Last year, the opioid task force recommended that Congress fund new machines for the United States Postal Service that detect drugs. The majority of international drug traffickers send shipments of pills through mail services, but drugs like methamphetamine typically come through the US/Mexico border.
Fentanyl is a drug that has been found not only in pill form but also powdered form, which could easily kill a non-opioid user exposed to it. Fentanyl is at least fifty times stronger than morphine, a highly potent narcotic. When handling drugs like these, police officers have to use gloves and sometimes have to cover their mouths and arms to decrease their risk of exposure. Most first responders in America now keep a steady supply of Narcan, an opioid antagonist, on hand to deal with accidental exposure or overdoses. The US Customs and Border Patrol even describes taking precautions for their K-9 units, who have long been at risk of overdose due to the nature of their jobs. (A drug-sniffing dog often sticks its snout near loose drug powder or pills.)
The US Border Patrol stops drug traffickers almost every day of the week. Drugs often come through regular checkpoints, and large amounts of drugs come through trucks and cars.