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According to the Albuquerque Journal, most of the fentanyl coming into the United States is coming across the Southwest border, leading to what seems like new record-breaking seizures around the country almost every month. Although the fentanyl is mostly going to cities and towns on the East Coast and Midwest, residents of New Mexico have also been affected. In 2016 alone, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigated the deaths of at least 20 New Mexico residents killed by counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl.

Authorities believe that most of the fentanyl originates in China. Fentanyl or its precursor ingredients are then shipped to North America. With a kilogram of fentanyl only costing between $3,000 to $5,000 with the profit potential being in the millions, drug trafficking organizations have a financial motive to keep using fentanyl. DEA Agent Melvin Patterson said the cartels use fentanyl because “The profits are so high and it is fairly inexpensive….”

The total for fentanyl seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for fiscal year 2017, which ran from October 1, 2016 – September 30, 2017, was 1,377 pounds. In just the first eight months of fiscal year 2018, they have already seized almost 100 pounds more in four fewer months. However, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rod Riddle of the Albuquerque office said that counterfeit pills made with fentanyl are becoming more available on the city’s streets. “Some overdoses attributed to a combination of drugs are probably fentanyl in combination with other drugs,” Riddle said. Toxicology tests are both expensive and take time, meaning that it can be months before a family knows what killed their loved one.

You can learn more about the fentanyl crisis in New Mexico and other states across the United States by reading PSM’s 43 States and Counting report.