PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says more than 1 million deadly fentanyl pills have been seized in Arizona this year.
In fact, the DEA says the 1,138,288 illicitly manufactured fentanyl pills seized this fiscal year compares to just 380,000 that were seized during the 2018 fiscal year.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Fentanyl's Fatal Fallout]
The pills, which were confiscated by DEA’s Phoenix Field Division and law enforcement agencies in Arizona, are predominantly those designed to resemble oxycodone M-30 tablets.
“The proliferation of these pills trafficked into the U.S. by Mexican cartels and the sheer number of fentanyl pills seized in Arizona is alarming,” said Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of DEA in Arizona. “The DEA and our law enforcement partners throughout the state are committed to taking deadly fentanyl off the streets, and ensuring those who manufacture and traffic these lethal pills are held accountable to the communities and families they destroy with this dangerous drug.”
Intelligence compiled by the DEA in Arizona first began highlighting the fentanyl pill seizures in 2016; approximately 20,000 pills were seized during the course of that year.
Previously, fentanyl was used in heroin as an additive to increase the potency of the opiate-based drug for the addict population.
However, the DEA says Mexican cartels began to manufacture their own fentanyl and press the drug into pill form as the primary opioid substance, marketing the pills as “Mexican oxy” to those looking for opiate-based pills on the street.
Since the recent emergence of fentanyl into the illicit drug market, seizures of the drug by DEA in Arizona and statewide law enforcement have more than tripled each year since 2016.
The DEA in Arizona wants to warn the community that taking any pill not prescribed by a licensed medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist could have dangerous consequences.
A big problem is that street fentanyl pills are nearly indiscernible from the legitimate pharmaceutical manufactured oxycodone tablet.
Overall, preliminary data from the Arizona Department of Health Services website shows approximately 344 Arizonans have died from the consumption of fentanyl since January of this year.
That's on pace to possibly exceed last year’s 553 fentanyl-related deaths.
Coleman is encouraging anyone with information concerning the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs to contact DEA or any law enforcement entity in Arizona.
Information can be provided in person or by telephone to any DEA office, or anonymously on DEA’s website www.dea.gov/submit-tip.