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Drug Cartels Are Smuggling Alarming Amounts of Fentanyl into the U.S.

Fentanyl found stuffed inside burritos in April. Photo: CBP.

By Steve Neavling

Fentanyl is becoming the drug of choice for cartels. 

In the past three years, fentanyl seizures have risen an astounding 4,000%, Border Patrol agents tell NBC News.

But most of the fentanyl isn’t turning up at ports of entry, where seizures are typically made. It’s found in the desert, where smugglers are taking advantage of limited federal resources.

Between 2018 and 2020, 12 pounds of fentanyl were found outside of ports of entry. By contrast, agents seized 41 pounds outside of ports of entry during 2021 fiscal year alone. 

To put that into perspective, a lethal dose of fentanyl is two milligrams. A single kilogram can kill up to 500,000 people. 

Because of its potency, a small amount of fentanyl can go a long way, making it easier to smuggle into the U.S., and it’s very profitable. 

“For the first time, we’re starting to see these tactics where fentanyl is being smuggled between ports of entry,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez told NBC News. “Cartels are very creative. They find ways to intimidate migrants and find ways to illegally have them transport that narcotic into the United States.”


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