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DEA launches campaign to raise awareness about illegal fentanyl

Drug traffickers "harnessing social media"
DEA administrator says drug traffickers are "harnessing social media" for sales 01:22

Drug overdose deaths topped 100,000 this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a grim number that exceeds the number of people who died from car crashes and gun violence combined. The main culprit is illegally manufactured fentanyl, which experts say can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"Fentanyl right now is driving the overdose epidemic that we're seeing in the United States," Drug Enforcement Administrator Anne Milgram told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. "Fentanyl is a different drug threat than we've seen before. It's synthetic, meaning that it's manmade. It's made of chemicals." 

Milgram talked exclusively to Brennan this week, as she promoted the DEA's One Pill Can Kill campaign to raise awareness about the overdose epidemic. Milgram announced this week that DEA agents have seized an unprecedented amount of fentanyl and fake prescription pills laced with the fatal chemical.

Deaths due to fentanyl have nearly doubled since 2019, according to CDC data. The DEA says that drug dealers are now in people's homes and their pockets - since drugs are readily available for order on any smartphone.  

"We know every single day across America that drugs are being sold on these social media sites Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook." says Milgram. 

"Drug traffickers are harnessing social media because it is accessible. They're able to access millions of Americans," Milgram told Brennan. "And it is anonymous, and they're able to sell these fake pills that are not what they say they are."

Many of the chemicals that go into the production of fentanyl are "sourced from China," said Milgram. "They're going to the Mexican criminal drug cartels that are then mass producing, often at an industrial scale." 

Drug traffickers have been putting fentanyl inside other drugs, making it hard to tell which pills can be deadly. 

"We see dealers and drug trafficking networks doing now, is that they're lacing other drugs with fentanyl," says Milgram. "They're lacing cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin." She noted a case in Connecticut where even marijuana had been laced with fentanyl. 

"We need to help people understand, one pill can kill," said Milgram. 

According to Milgram, these fake pills are being produced at astronomical rates. Her agency confiscated 20 million fake pills this year alone. The DEA is seizing more than ever before in the U.S., along with bulk fentanyl powder, which is used to press into fake prescription pills to make them more potent. The administration has so far seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl powder this year — enough to kill every American.

Watch more of the interview with DEA Administrator Anne Milgram on "Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan" this Sunday, December 19, on CBS. 

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