washingtonpost.com: Federal, state authorities step up fentanyl prosecutions as drug drives spike in overdoses


An example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly, as shown in 2017 at a news conference at the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Federal and state law enforcement officials are aggressively prosecuting crimes involving fentanyl, utilizing statutes that were once rarely used, treating overdose deaths as homicides, seizing enormous quantities of the drug and charging foreign nationals with wide-ranging conspiracies.

The push comes as fentanyl is driving a spike in opioid overdoses, which killed more than 42,000 people in 2016. The Centers for Disease Control said fentanyl — a synthetic opioid so powerful that just a few grains of it can be fatal — is responsible for about 45 percent of those deaths. Prosecutors said they are using any and all means to mitigate damage from the drug, which is coming from Mexico and China and is often found mixed into heroin and cocaine and sometimes is pressed into counterfeit prescription pills.

“Synthetic opioids like fentanyl killed more Americans than any other kind of drug in 2016,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “In response, the Department of Justice tripled our fentanyl prosecutions in 2017.”


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