BUFFALO, N.Y. — There were 386 million deadly doses of fentanyl, enough to kill every American, that were seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency last year across the United States. The agency is calling it a ticking time bomb for users.

Last year, the DEA New York Division seized 4.2 million fake fentanyl pills and more than 500 kilograms of fentanyl powder, which is the equivalent of potentially 37 million lethal doses. But what might be even more frightening is the latest drug to make its way to parts of New York.

“You know, drug trafficking is a half-a-trillion-dollar industry,” said Michael Cereo, DEA assistant special agent in charge.

Cereo is responsible for the 17 districts that span the western part of the state. He says the drugs we see come across the Mexican border. Buffalo is what they call a destination city.

“The big load vehicle or the package that comes into the area is going to get distributed locally here into the community,” Cereo explained. 

That has changed a lot.

“Let's say, starting like 2012. What we saw initially in 2012 was an abuse of prescription drugs that are being provided by medical professionals," he said. "Then in 2014, we started to see heroin and fentanyl coming on the scene.”

Cereo says over the last couple of years, fentanyl has been mixed with all different types of controlled substances like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, other illicit drugs and most recently, counterfeit prescription pills.

“Counterfeit pills that are being distributed on the street. Seven out of every 10 that are being tested in our laboratories have come back with a lethal, lethal dose of fentanyl,” Cereo said.

Cereo says in 2022, the New York division seized 1.9 million pills. Buffalo accounts for more than 30,000 of that number.

“I'm going to take that into perspective. Seven out of every 10 pills are coming back with a lethal dose of fentanyl. DEA themselves seized 30,000. So that's about 20,000 pills that could have been distributed out on the street that may have caused a nonfatal or fatal overdose death,” Cereo explained.

Despite those seizures, overdose deaths are rising.

“In 2022, there were 214 [in Erie County]. And I believe this past year, there were 301,” Cereo said.

“Fentanyl is a manmade compound. And just to kind of put things into perspective, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin."

It’s also more addictive.

Then, there’s Carfentinal, which arrived in Buffalo late last year. It’s 100 times more potent than fentanyl. It’s typically used as a tranquilizer for elephants. An amount as small as a grain of sand can be fatal.

“These poisonings that are happening in our community, people do not go out on the street trying to buy fentanyl," Cereo said. "You know, no one wants to risk their lives. You know, they're addicted to a substance. We understand that that's a sickness. You know, people need health. So, therefore, we don't believe people are overdosing on them by themselves. We believe they're being poisoned by these drug traffickers.”

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