US Customs and Border Patrol have seized 254 lbs of fentanyl and 395 lbs of methamphetamine from a lorry at the Arizona border, in what has been identified as the largest ever seizure of synthetic drugs attempting to be trafficked into the United States. The driver of the lorry was of Mexican nationality and has since been detained and charged with drug dealing.
The synthetic produce was found underneath hidden floor panelling of a tractor-trailer after anomalies were detected in a vehicle scan. Sniffer dogs were also used to determine that there were drugs hidden inside the vehicle.
According to the Miami Herald, authorities claim that the seizure of fentanyl would have had a street value of nearly US$3.5 million should it have passed through the border, and another US$1.8 million for the methamphetamine. The largest seizures prior to this week’s bust pale in comparison to the size and price of this week, the last of which was where 145 lbs were seized in New York in 2017.
There is currently a huge opioid problem in the United States and despite the crackdown on illicit use of drugs throughout the country, users continue to abuse painkillers before reaching for stronger drugs such as heroin and now fentanyl.
Fentanyl is now one of the world’s most deadly drugs and usually starts its life in China where the finished product or the ingredients are usually shipped to Mexico. According to the San Diego Tribune, 80% of shipments are funnelled from Mexico through the San Diego area before being dispersed around the United States.
In 2016, over 64,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States and a large contributing factor to this amount was fentanyl. Although originally created as a powerful pain reliever, the strength of the drug has led drug dealers to mix the fentanyl with substances such as cocaine and heroin, and fentanyl-related deaths have skyrocketed. Considered synthetic heroin, less is needed to receive the same high as heroin and some strains of the product can be almost fifty times stronger than morphine.
According to AJC the strains can be so deadly, for example, furanyl fentanyl, that even touching the powder can lead to death. This was the case that occurred in Georgia, USA when 19 people died of contact with the drug.
Although San Diego tends to see the largest amount of drugs funnelled through its border, Arizona is reportedly beginning to also see increasing narcotics activity due to the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel.