Mexican authorities carried out a “historic” drug bust this week, seizing more than a half-ton of fentanyl from a warehouse in the northern city of Culiacan, officials said.
The Mexican Army and National Guard announced Thursday that on July 2, law enforcement located a property that had been used by criminals to smuggle drugs and had arrested 10 individuals found there. Authorities discovered an incredible 542.72 kilograms (1196.49 lbs) of fentanyl valued at nearly $230 million, the Associated Press reports.
“This is the largest seizure in history of this lethal drug,” said Assistant Public Safety Secretary Ricardo Mejia.
Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that was responsible for more than 70,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. last year. It is 100 times more potent than morphine; just two milligrams of fentanyl can be enough to kill a person.
Drug smugglers south of the U.S.-Mexico border disguise fentanyl as counterfeit pills for common medications like Xanax, Adderall, or oxycodone. The opioid is commonly laced with other drugs into deadly cocktails that have led thousands to accidentally overdose.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes China is providing the source materials for fentanyl, which is manufactured in Mexico and then smuggled into the U.S. through the southern border.
Mexico’s Defense Department said the warehouse stash was discovered in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, where a violent drug cartel of the same name has its base of operations.
The July 2 raid also uncovered half-ton of meth, as well as cocaine, opium, and at least 70 tons of precursor chemicals, authorities said.
President Joe Biden’s administration hopes to curb the number of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S., setting an ambitious goal for a 13 percent reduction in overdose deaths by 2025. The White House released a National Drug Control Strategy in April that seeks to address untreated addiction and go after drug traffickers.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, testified before a Senate oversight committee three weeks ago about the administration’s efforts to combat fentanyl manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S. by violent cartels.
“A Pandora’s box has been opened. We can expect to see much more potent substances [in the future],” he told lawmakers.
Biden’s plan calls for increased spending on drug treatment and for medications that help reverse opioid overdoses to be made widely available.
But Republicans have insisted tighter border security and increased enforcement of drug laws targeting supply be a priority as well.