MIAMI, Fla. — In a nondescript building just outside of Miami a team of scientist works around the clock.
They wear protective gear over their eyes, mouth, and hands because what they're looking at kills more than 100,000 people a year.
Illicit fentanyl is now the number one killer of 18 to 49-year-olds.
Fox 4 Investigates was given exclusive access to the lab run by the Drug Enforcement Administration as part of an ongoing series of reports on the fentanyl epidemic.
On this day, chemists are looking at a batch of 8,000 pills seized by the DEA.
The pills are light blue and stamped with an “M” on one side and the number 30 on the other.
Anyone who has ever been prescribed oxycodone might recognize the pills.
And that’s the point.
“Usually, these pills are supposed to be oxycodone. I did analyze these and they are not oxycodone,” said a DEA Chemist who we are not identifying due to the sensitive nature of their work.
What’s inside the pills is fentanyl mixed with fillers and shaped into pill presses.
“Generally, they’re around 2 milligrams (of fentanyl). Which is considered a lethal amount. Other coworkers have found some with more than 2 milligrams,” said the chemist.
DEADLIEST YEAR ON RECORD
2021 was the deadliest year in US history for drug overdoses.
More than 106,000 people died, which is the last year we have full data from the CDC.
Florida had the second most drug overdose deaths in the country, 7,827, behind only California.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, more than two-thirds of overdose deaths involved illicit fentanyl.
A new report from the CDC shows the number of overdose deaths tripled from 2016 to 2021.
“Chemical companies in China are shipping the chemicals to Mexico and the two cartels are primarily responsible for making this deadly poison,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Field Office Deanne Reuter.
Six out of every ten pills tested in the DEA’s Miami lab contains a lethal dose of fentanyl.
That’s a 50% increase from last year when the DEA says it was four out of ten.
“Last year, just the seizures (of fentanyl) alone was enough to kill every American. In Florida, the seizures we had in Florida, would be responsible for over 9 million potentially lethal doses,” Reuter said.
“There’s no demographic that’s free from this deadly fentanyl epidemic we’re seeing right now. It’s affecting everybody the same.”
As Fox 4 Investigates continues our series of reports, we turn next to recovery.
Wednesday night at 10:00 P.M. we sit down with a group of specialists and recovering addicts at a one-of-a-kind recovery center in Southwest Florida.