DEA explains cartels’ shifting strategy to push fentanyl

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As part of continuing coverage on the dangerous and often deadly drug, fentanyl, KOB 4 spoke with DEA El Paso Division spokesperson Carlos Briano, whose division covers New Mexico.

“This is a public safety, public health and national security threat to our country,” Briano said. “It’s really undermining every aspect of our communities.”

He said the majority of illegal fentanyl in America is coming from Mexico, and specifically from two cartels – The Sinaloa Cartel and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

“They really have shifted to that synthetic opioid,” Briano said.

He said the change has occurred within the last three years.

The cartels are now making and pushing out much more fentanyl, and the DEA believes one reason is it’s cheaper and easier to make.

“Plant-based opioids are very labor-intensive. They consume a lot of resources,” Briano said. “They don’t have to do that anymore. They just take chemicals, precursor chemicals, from other countries and synthesize it into illicit fentanyl. They can make it anywhere. In deserts, in jungles, in apartments, in warehouses, in Air BnBs.”

Another reason is it’s very profitable, because of just how many people in America want it.

“We have an issue with demand in our country,” Briano said. “Until we start doing something about the demand, the supply is going to continue.”

The DEA is focused on prevention efforts, and agents have noticed a troubling trend – more and more people are mistakenly taking this drug thinking it’s something else.

On its website, the DEA has pictures that show only slight differences between legally-made fentanyl pills a doctor would prescribe and some of the cartel-made pills agents have seized.

Plus, there are new worries about cartels disguising fentanyl in other drugs. People may be thinking they’re taking Adderall to help them study, for instance, but they’re really taking fentanyl.