Alarming Increase in California Fentanyl Busts Shed Light on How Accessible Fentanyl Is

Police is busting drug dealers
Photo by Glenn Highcove/

“California seized more than 28,000 pounds of fentanyl over the past year, a nearly six-fold increase in the amount of the drug recovered a year earlier.” That is the breaking news headline from a late-December 2022 report by the Associated Press. The report outlined a shocking surge in fentanyl seizures in the Golden State, raising the alarm among Americans that the fentanyl crisis in the U.S. is likely far more dire than anyone anticipated.

Recent News Reports Show an Epidemic of Fentanyl Trafficking Across the U.S.

California’s National Guard has become involved in a growing statewide effort to crack down on fentanyl trafficking into, within, and out of the state. In just one year, the task force seized $230 million worth of fentanyl, a 600% over what state officials seized in the previous year. This campaign came on the heels of California reporting that it loses about 14 residents to fentanyl deaths annually for every 100,000 people in the state.

In addition to increased law enforcement efforts, California lawmakers have increased the severity of punishment for fentanyl dealing, seeking to use incarceration as a deterrent to fentanyl trafficking. In 2022, California Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen introduced a measure that would make state-level penalties for dealing fentanyl as harsh as those for selling cocaine or heroin. Quoting Assemblywoman Nguyen, “This is sending messages to those who aren’t afraid of selling these drugs that there’s a longer, bigger penalty than you might think.” While Nguyen’s measure failed to advance from her chamber’s public safety committee, other legislators are introducing similar bills.

“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered. Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.”

Beyond California, the Drug Enforcement Administration is tackling the fentanyl epidemic on the national level, seeking to protect Americans from ever experimenting with the extremely dangerous drug. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram spoke about the severity of the fentanyl crisis. “Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered. Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day.”

The DEA has been especially focused on informing Americans of the risks of fentanyl, hence its ‘Faces of Fentanyl’ program. While the DEA has historically been a federal law enforcement branch tasked solely with enforcing drug law, the fentanyl epidemic has become so devastating and so easily lethal that the DEA has committed itself to creating educational campaigns and prevention efforts, seeking to stop Americans from ever experimenting with the drug in the first place by informing them and cautioning them not to.

National Drug-Involved Overdose Deaths – graph

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,375 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2022. The reports indicate 67% of the deaths, exactly two-thirds, were caused by fentanyl or synthetic opioids very similar in chemical makeup to fentanyl.

According to toxicology reports, a growing percentage of annual overdose deaths are caused by multiple drugs, usually a substance contaminated with fentanyl without the user knowing. Increasingly, addicts are dying from using cocaine, meth, counterfeit pills, and even cannabis, all of which had been contaminated with enough fentanyl to create a fatal overdose.

Now More Than Ever, Addicts Must Seek Help at Qualified Addiction Treatment Centers

The CDC report cited above indicates that fatal drug overdoses spiked 30% in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase in deaths since recording began. Then overdose fatalities increased again, this time by 15%, between 2021 and 2022. According to both CDC and DEA information, the primary culprit behind the surge in deaths has been fentanyl, namely because:

  • Fentanyl is becoming more widespread across the U.S. (hence California’s and other states’ crackdowns on trafficking).
  • Drug dealers and traffickers are beginning to mix fentanyl into batches of other drugs to increase potency, causing addicts whose bodies are not used to fentanyl to overdose and die.

These factors combined create an addiction landscape more dangerous than perhaps ever before. The increased risk levels have been most evidenced in younger users. A study showed that, while fewer young Americans are experimenting with drugs than in previous years, more young people are dying from drug use, suggesting the drugs they use are far more dangerous than they used to be.

What conclusion should we draw from the findings? Today’s drug landscape is extremely dangerous. Family members of addicts must do everything they can to get their loved ones help.


  • A.P. “California reports rise in fentanyl seizures in crackdown.” A.P. News, 2022.
  • A.P. “States look for solutions as U.S. fentanyl deaths keep rising.” A.P. News, 2022.
  • DEA. “Fentanyl Awareness.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2022.
  • CDC. “U.S. Overdose Deaths In 2021 Increased Half as Much as in 2020 – But Are Still Up 15%.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  •  JAMA. “Trends in Drug Overdose Deaths Among U.S. Adolescents, January 2010 to June 2021.” Journal of the American Medical Administration, 2022.


Editorial Staff