California seized enough fentanyl last year to kill everyone in the world 'nearly twice over'

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Roughly 62,000 pounds of fentanyl smuggled into California was confiscated by authorities in 2023. The total amount of the potent synthetic opioid seized last year "is enough to potentially kill the global population nearly twice over," Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced Tuesday.

In 2023, the California National Guard supported other law enforcement agencies in counter-drug operations across the state, seizing a record 62,000 pounds of fentanyl at ports of entry, according to a news release from Newsom's office. It's unclear what means were used to smuggle the opioid and what form the fentanyl was in when shipped.

Compared with just a few years ago, the amount of fentanyl seized by authorities has dramatically surged. In 2021, California authorities seized more than 5,300 pounds of the drug, with a street value of $64 million. In 2022 that rose to 28,000 pounds, with a street value of $230 million, based on the U.S. Department of Justice evaluation of illegal-drug values in the Los Angeles region.

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The total amount of fentanyl seized in 2023 would be worth roughly $670 million, according to authorities. It's unclear whether the leap in the amount of fentanyl seized was due to the larger number of officers making seizures or whether traffickers greatly ramped up the amount of drug they were trying to smuggle into the state.

Either way, the state has stepped up its efforts.

Newsom called fentanyl a poison that does not belong in neighborhoods.

"California is cracking down — increasing seizures, expanding access to substance abuse treatment, and holding drug traffickers accountable to combat the immeasurable harm opioids have caused our communities," Newsom said in a statement.

The California National Guard's role in the state's counter-drug task force has also grown over the last year. The state expanded the number of service members deployed along the border and in San Francisco to support the California Highway Patrol in the high-intensity drug-trafficking areas.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says that just 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose. In 2022, more than 110,000 people died across the U.S. by drug poisonings, with about 70% linked to fentanyl.

"The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented drug poisoning epidemic," the DEA said in a news release about the sale of pill presses.

Last year, federal authorities seized nearly 80 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, according to the DEA. Illegal-drug sellers are able to make pills that look like legitimate prescription medications with pill press machines purchased online. Federal agents said that 7 out of 10 fake pills seized from illegal sellers in 2023 tested positive for fentanyl.

In Los Angeles County, fentanyl overtook methamphetamine as the most common drug listed for overdose deaths in 2022. The opioid was linked to about 60% of all accidental drug or alcohol overdoses, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, with Black Angelenos killed at disproportionately higher numbers.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.