The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has warned this Thursday that Mexican criminal groups offer fake pills mixed with fentanyl through social networks. “At the click of a smartphone”, the cartels distribute lethal doses of the drug that every five minutes causes a death in the United States, according to a study by the agency. The DEA maintains that “there is a direct link between fentanyl-related overdose deaths and criminal drug networks in Mexico.”
According to the agency, the Mexican drug networks are producing fentanyl en masse. Between September 29 and December 14 alone, US authorities seized more than 680 kilograms of this drug and more than eight million counterfeit pills mixed with fentanyl. “These counterfeit pills are designed to look almost identical to legitimate prescriptions, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Xanax, and other drugs,” says the drug agency. To make the tablets, drug traffickers also use chemicals mainly from China, he adds.
“Mexican criminal groups are taking advantage of the perfect tool for drug trafficking: social network applications that are available on all smartphones,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA, at a press conference. “They are using these platforms to flood our country with fentanyl. The ease with which drug traffickers can operate on social media and other popular smartphone applications is fueling our nation’s unprecedented overdose epidemic. “
Following a weeks-long investigation, the DEA has determined that four out of 10 pills contain at least two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount that is considered a lethal dose. According to the results of the study, the seized drugs were directly related to at least 46 overdoses and 39 deaths. In addition to the fact that at least 76 of the cases involved drug traffickers who used social media applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat, and 32 of them had “direct links with the main Mexican cartels that produce and distribute fentanyl en masse ”. The report also reveals that the pills have been found in every state in the country.
Last September, the drug agency issued its first public safety alert in six years to warn of the alarming increase in the availability and lethality of fake pills. In 2021, the DEA seized 20.4 million counterfeit pills and “enough fentanyl to provide a lethal dose to all Americans,” according to the agency. “Much of this fentanyl is in the form of counterfeit pills.”
According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English), the opioid epidemic in the United States is already the deadliest in history. Between April 2020 and the same month in 2021, more than 100,000 people died from overdoses. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were responsible for nearly two-thirds (64%) of all deaths.
The United Nations had already warned last October of the expansion of the Mexican drug cartels through social networks. According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the covid-19 pandemic has changed the way it operates. The danger is that “traffickers may make greater use of online drug trafficking models to expand their businesses and networks, and that, after the pandemic, this particular model will become the most notable feature of the regional market. of illicit drugs ”.
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