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DEA seizes nearly 700 pounds of Fentanyl in 2022, topping last two years combined

<i>KMOV</i><br/>DEA seizes nearly 700 pounds of Fentanyl in 2022
DEA seizes nearly 700 pounds of Fentanyl in 2022

By Gabriela Vidal

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — 111 days is how long it took for Becky Fuqua’s daughter, Jena, to lose her battle with addiction in 2018.

“Xanax was the kick starter and there was an exposure to fentanyl,” Fuqua said.

Jen was only 20 when she died, which still feels like yesterday for Fuqua.

“That was one thing my child said to me before I lost her. She said, “Mom I never thought it was going to be me,’” Fuqua said.

Fuqua is among thousands of family members across the St. Louis region who know someone who’s died from taking Fentanyl.

The St. Louis division of the Drug Enforcement Administration says there were 1,030 deaths related to Fentanyl in the 2021 calendar year.

“Unfortunately, you have the demand, and we need to get away from that demand,” said Michael Davis, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis DEA division.

Today, the DEA announced a record-breaking 671 pounds of Fentanyl have been seized so far in 2022 throughout Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois. This is a 41% increase compared to 2021, where 396 pounds of the deadly opioid were seized.

These are the year-by-year comparisons:

· FY 2022 – 671 pounds

· FY 2021 – 396 pounds

· FY 2020 – 180 pounds

· FY 2019 – 227 pounds

· FY 2018 – 77 pounds

“We can’t seize everything that’s coming through, so you have to be aware that these types of drugs are out and can kill you or your family members,” Davis said.

News 4 asked the DEA whether the amount of fentanyl seized so far this year is attributed to catching more individuals and groups selling fentanyl or an increase in access to the drug itself.

“It’s a little bit of both,” Davis said. “Of course, we’re working hard, we’re trying to intercept these pills and this fentanyl powder before it gets to our communities, causing overdose deaths and harm to our citizens. Yet, you also have the cartels and drug trafficking organizations that are getting this fentanyl from Mexico that’s coming across our borders and eventually hitting the highway system and our interstate system heading eastbound right here to the heartland.”

Davis says their division, along with the help of local police jurisdictions have stepped up their efforts to prevent as much trafficking as they can.

“We have interdiction units at the airport. We have interdiction units on the highway that we work with, and we’re also doing a lot more overdose death investigations,” he said. “Unfortunately, these pills do make it to the consumers and citizens here in Missouri and Kansas and Southern Illinois and people die. And so, it’s our job to hold those individuals accountable for those deaths.”

Davis says another layer of the ongoing fentanyl epidemic is they are also starting to see things like rainbow pills, fentanyl in a multitude of colors, popping up as well.

“It looks very similar, it’s stamped with the same M and the 30 on the back as the blue pills here. So that’s the key sign for the typical fentanyl pill,” he said.

The look is used as a marketing tactic to make people perceive these drugs as harmless, but just two milligrams of fentanyl is all it takes to potentially kill someone.

“We are seeing them in the Kansas City area, but [the] DEA hasn’t seized any here,” Davis said. “But believe me, if they’re in Kansas City, it’s only a matter of time, before we see it here in the St. Louis area.”

Davis says it’s important to be proactive and know what you are getting, even if you are taking legal medication.

“If you’re not sure where that pill originated from, your doctor’s office or a pharmacist, don’t use it because it could be a deadly pill,” he said. “Because we’re seeing oxycodone, we’re seeing Xanax, other different types of pills that of course look like legitimate pills but are actually pills laced with fentanyl.”

He also says because more drug transactions are taking place through social media, families should also be attentive to their children’s interactions on platforms like Snapchat.

“If you see any type of that, any conversations like that in your kid’s phone, that’s a big clue,” said Davis.

Fuqua says it is no surprise the access to fentanyl is getting worse.

“When we’re talking about fentanyl and talking about more of it in the drug supply, it’s expected, and this isn’t going to be the last crisis. Fentanyl replaced heroin,” she said.

Fuqua says preventing access to fentanyl alone doesn’t eliminate the root cause for those who battle with addiction.

“And the root cause will always be that our nation has not been as compassionate and empathetic and willing to learn that those that do suffer from substance use do it because it is a valid disease,” she said. “Our society is very easy to say not my child.”

She argues there should be more of a focus on educating the community about the dangers of illicit drugs and removing the stigma around talking about mental health and addiction.

“Educate the on the risk, educate the parents,” said Fuqua. “Some parents may feel its never going to be their child. I tell you what, it slips in the backdoor, and it slips in the back door when you think you’re looking.”

We have extensive coverage of the fentanyl crisis in the St. Louis region. Watch our documentary, Contaminated: The Fentanyl Crisis in St. Louis, along with resources and ways you can help.

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