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A Record Amount Of Fentanyl Poured Into The US Last Year Through The Mail

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Federal agents are seizing more fentanyl than ever as record amounts of the substance continue to flood into the U.S., primarily through the mail from China.

Fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is blamed as the primary culprit behind the massive increase in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2010. The fatal painkiller is coming in through international mail and private carriers from China and Hong Kong, where the majority of fentanyl is produced globally, reports CBS News.

Authorities nabbed 81 pounds of fentanyl during the fiscal year ending last week, a new record that more than triples seizures of fentanyl from the previous year. Officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where 60 percent of all U.S.-bound international mail passes through, say increased resources for package screenings are dramatically boosting their success rate.

“What we are seizing here is hundreds of millions of dollars,” Frank Russo, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol port director for JFK Airport, told CBS News. “Most of our seizures, actually all of our seizures have come from China and Hong Kong this year.”

A year ago, drug agents stationed at JFK Airport only had an X-ray machine to work with, resulting in the seizure of just seven fentanyl shipments. The agents now have a number of K-9 units specifically trained to detect fentanyl and a handheld laser that can detect what kind of drug is inside a package. Officials say in the 2017 fiscal year agents confiscated 80 packages containing fentanyl.

While officials say they are making progress against the illegal drug trade, they are still fighting an uphill battle. Much of the illicit drugs coming into the U.S. still get lost among the estimated 1 million packages that come through JFK Airport everyday.

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