DEA launches campaign to combat surge in deadly synthetic drug fentanyl

WGN Investigates

The country’s Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a warning as the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl continues to flood the U.S.

DEA labs across the country continue to track counterfeit pills as bags pour into their offices, loaded with the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl.

In the Chicago area, the warnings keep coming, as numbers add up.

New data shows that from October 2020 to Tuesday, Sept 28, the DEA has seized 600 pounds of suspected fentanyl in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

WGN News explored the growing problem earlier this year and toured the DEA drug lab and sat down with Chicago’s DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert Bell. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. Bell said the drug cartels are capitalizing on how easy it is to manufacture the synthetic drug.

This has sparked the DEA to launch a campaign known as “One Pill Can Kill.” The DEA says just two milligrams of fentanyl could end a life.

“The unfortunate thing is that large amounts are coming into the U.S. in the form of powders and counterfeit pills,” Bell said.

In February, TV personality Dr. Laura Berman shared her family’s story after the death of her 16-year-old Sammy due to a counterfeit pill obtained on a social media platform. Her story shook up American families but it didn’t slow the problem down. In fact , counterfeit pills have a higher chance of being laced with a deadly combination of fentanyl today. In 2017, only 10% of them had a lethal dose. Bell says the increase since has soared.

“In 2019 that level raised to about 25% and in 2020 that level reached 40%,” he said.

In 2020, Illinois saw nearly 2,500 deaths linked to opioid-related overdoses. Nearly 40% of those deaths were in Chicago.

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