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Fentanyl Is Flowing Through Mexico To The US, Often As Fake Oxycontin

Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.

Credit: Office of the United States Attorney

Above: Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.

Experts say the nation’s deadliest drug — fentanyl — is increasingly coming in from Mexico, through ports of entry like San Ysidro.

The synthetic drug is transported into San Diego mostly in vehicles and pedestrian lanes at the ports by U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents known as "couriers," according to Sherri Walker Hobson of the U.S. Attorney's office.

Late last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest drug in the U.S.

Hobson said that while much of the fentanyl comes across the border as powder, it’s increasingly entering as fake oxycodone. The doses aren’t evenly distributed and can be lethal for people who think they’re taking medical-grade pills.

“You may be a nondrug user, and you take one pill that contains multiple specks of fentanyl, and you can die," she said.

Hobson said San Diego is becoming an epicenter in the fentanyl trade, and that as Mexican cartels gain a foothold in the China-dominated business, fentanyl will become cheaper. Hobson said this could create an even bigger public health crisis as more people begin to consume the drug.

"What we're gonna see is the Mexican traffickers take over the fentanyl business here in the United States," she said, adding that she is part of a law enforcement Fentanyl Working Group to try to tackle the issue from multiple sides.

"We can't arrest ourselves out of the problem, we can't just put everybody in custody, because you're not addressing the use issue," she said.

A recent report from the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute also found that Mexico is playing a rising role in the fentanyl trade.

"Mexico is becoming a major transit and production point for the drug and its analogues as well, and Mexican traffickers appear to be playing a role in its distribution in the United States," the report said.

Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized about 1,800 pounds of fentanyl at ports of entry, triple what was seized two years before. Hobson said the weights do not reflect the full increase because the fentanyl pills are lighter than the powder fentanyl they're replacing.

Experts say the nation’s deadliest drug — fentanyl — is increasingly coming in from Mexico, through ports of entry like San Ysidro.

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