(The Center Square) – Gov. Greg Abbott met with state officials on Thursday to warn Texans about the dangers of fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is deadly; it’s spreading and Texas is fighting back,” he said.
In the state’s largest county, “one person dies every single day in Harris County because of fentanyl.”
He emphasized that law enforcement efforts alone aren’t enough to combat the expansion of fentanyl in Texas communities and called on parents to educate their children about the lethal drug.
He made the announcement after touring a Department of Public Safety drug warehouse and crime lab in northwest Houston.
“Mexican drug cartels are smuggling fentanyl into our country any way they can,” he said. “It is laced into every other street drug available, as well as being disguised as legal prescriptions, as this lab has discovered. Because of the folks at this lab, who handle potentially lethal drugs every day, we are saving the lives of thousands of Texans from the deadly scourge of fentanyl.”
Because of the Biden administration’s open border policies, Abbott said fentanyl is being brought across the southern border into Texas from Mexico, where it is manufactured after cartel operatives receive precursors from China.
In 2020, DPS seized 70 pounds of fentanyl, he said. In 2021, DPS seized 964 pounds. The number of lethal doses DPS has seized “is almost enough to kill every single man, woman and child in America,” he said.
In 2019, there were 277 fentanyl poisonings in Texas. In 2021, there were nearly 1,700, he said.
“Most of those deaths were in counties not along the border,” he added. “What comes across the border typically doesn’t stay in the border region. It makes its way into Harris County, Montgomery County, across the entire state of Texas.”
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said, “we cannot stress enough for parents to understand that this can happen to your child,” referring to being poisoned by a fentanyl-laced drug.
There were 481 unintentional deaths in Harris County last year, she said, because those who took pills or other drugs didn’t know they were laced with fentanyl. The victims represented all socio-economic and racial categories, she said. “Everyone has been impacted by this.”
She also said the “legislature increased penalties against fentanyl manufacturing and distribution last session, but we will look to increase penalties even further this upcoming legislative session as a result of this growing crisis.”
DPS Director Steve McCraw urged parents and grandparents to “talk to your kids. They’re more likely to die from a pill produced in Mexico than anything else.
“It only takes one pill to kill.”
Jennifer Hatch, a forensic scientist at the DPS lab, said all labs across Texas are seeing increased cases of fentanyl. In 2020, they only had 19 cases. In the first six months of this year, they’ve had over 500.
The majority of drugs they process look like legitimate prescription pills, she said. “You can’t tell the difference until you do an analysis in the lab.”
DPS’ Houston crime lab has tested almost 13,700 pounds of counterfeit drugs in the past 12 months and inventoried more than 85,000 seized drugs, including more than 9,700 deadly opioids like fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more deadly than morphine. Roughly two milligrams, about the weight of a mosquito, is enough to kill a full-grown adult.
Last year, the U.S. “suffered more fentanyl-related deaths than gun-related and auto-related deaths combined,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram said in a recent public safety alert. The agency has also been warning about the alarming increase of fake prescription pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Fentanyl precursors are often first shipped from China to Mexican ports. Cartel workers then make fake opioid pills or lace other narcotics with them. Fake pills often look like authentic pills prescribed for pain management like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.
Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or benzodiazepines “may actually be fentanyl” or have been “adulterated or contaminated with fentanyl, the National Institutes of Health has warned.