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DEA Hosts National Family Summit on Fentanyl



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Family members of people who have died from fentanyl poisoning gathered Tuesday at the national headquarters of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for the agency’s Family Summit on Fentanyl.
According to the DEA, agents have seized 55.4 million fentanyl pills and 9,100 pounds of fentanyl powder so far in 2023, representing an estimated 266 million fatal doses.
Throughout October, the DEA will host Family Summits at regional field offices, for families, community groups and federal officials to share information and foster collaboration.
“Last year, 110,757 lives were lost to a drug poisoning, with fentanyl and methamphetamine driving this record increase,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. “Fentanyl and methamphetamine are more accessible and more widely available than ever before; anyone with a smart phone is a target of the drug cartels.”
According to a recent study led by UCLA researchers and published in the journal Addiction, the proportion of U.S. overdose deaths involving both fentanyl and stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine increased from 0.6% in 2010 to 32.3% in 2021, accounting for 34,429 deaths that year. By 2021, stimulants including cocaine and methamphetamine became the most common drug class found in fentanyl-involved overdoes in every state, researchers said.
“We’re now seeing that the use of fentanyl together with stimulants is rapidly becoming the dominant force in the U.S. overdose crisis,” lead author Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a statement. “Fentanyl has ushered in a polysubstance overdose crisis, meaning that people are mixing fentanyl with other drugs, like stimulants, but also countless other synthetic substances.”
This “polysubstance” crisis marks the “fourth wave” of the overdose crisis in the U.S., which began around 2015, and continues to grow, according to researchers. The first wave began in the early 2000s with an increase in deaths caused by prescription opioids. As it gradually became more difficult to obtain prescription opioids, overdose deaths shifted to heroin for wave two around 2010. Wave three, marked by the rise of fentanyl, began around 2013.
Speaking at the summit, Attorney General Merrick Garland told attendees that the Department of Justice is allocating $345 million over the next year to increase access to naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses, as well as to support mentoring for at-risk youth.
“We know that fentanyl is a nearly invisible poison, and that many people who take fentanyl have no idea they are taking it,” Garland said. “We know that no one — no one person, and no one family — can defeat this epidemic alone. We need each other.”
Garland also pointed to numerous criminal cases underway at the Justice Department, including against cartel members.
Milgram highlighted the DEA’s focus on the Sinaloa and Jalisco drug cartels, which the agency says are responsible for the bulk of fentanyl entering the U.S. from Mexico.
“We are facing and confronting a threat that is ever growing. It’s never been more deadly or dangerous,” Milgram said.
TMX contributed to this article.