By Amir Vera, CNN
US Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted about $339,300 worth of suspected fentanyl at the Hidalgo International Bridge in Texas this week, according to a CBP news release.
A vehicle attempted to make entry into the United States from Mexico Wednesday, but was selected for inspection, the release said. Through the inspection, officers found nine packages weighing 22 pounds of alleged fentanyl.
The Hidalgo International Bridge connects the southern border of Texas to Mexico. The case is under investigation by special agents with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, the release said.
An approved painkiller, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid trafficked principally by land across the US-Mexico border. It is up to 100 times as powerful as morphine and can be found in what is sold as heroine — sometimes taking its place entirely, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Fentanyl can also be mixed into cocaine, methamphetamine and counterfeit street pills sold as opioid medications.
The spread and sale of fentanyl led to a rise in US overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids — including fentanyl — were involved in about two-thirds of US drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period that ended in April 2021, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And three-quarters of overdose deaths from cocaine last year were associated with fentanyl, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.
There are also racial undertones to the fentanyl epidemic, Volkow said. From 2019 to 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths more than tripled among teenagers and surged fivefold among Black teens, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data produced by the advocacy group Families Against Fentanyl.
In April, the DEA sent a letter to federal, state and local law enforcement officials warning of a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass-overdose events.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an unprecedented rate,” said DEA administrator Anne Milgram. “Already this year, numerous mass-overdose events have resulted in dozens of overdoses and deaths.”
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Andy Miller with Kaiser Health News contributed to this report.