Houston's fentanyl crisis spreading 'like a brush fire,' DEA says

Four out of every 10 pills on our streets are laced with fentanyl, and most victims don't even know they're taking it.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston area is in the midst of a crisis as the synthetic opioid fentanyl kills Texans in record numbers, including at least one person locally every day.

Thursday, The National Institute on Drug Abuse released new data showing law enforcement seizures of pills containing fentanyl increased dramatically between January 2018 and December 2021.

DEA agents said four out of every 10 pills on Houston's streets right now are laced with the drug, and dealers are adding it to heroin, cocaine and counterfeit prescription drugs. Most victims are dying after taking these pills, not even knowing what they're taking is laced with fentanyl.

ABC13 gathered community leaders and the family members of fentanyl victims for a town hall Thursday, highlighting the record-setting impact of the drug in Houston and across the state.

The candid conversation focused on what we can do to bring the crisis to an end and save lives.

"This situation is truly tragic," said William Kimble, DEA Houston's assistant special agent in charge. "It's raging across the United States like a brush fire."

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With properties similar to morphine but 50 times more potent, a little fentanyl can wreak major havoc in a community. A dose small enough to fit on a pencil eraser can kill a person.

Last year, there were 466 deaths in Harris County. The latest CDC data reveals fentanyl killed nearly twice as many people last year as COVID-19, car accidents, cancer and suicide.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences reports fatal drug overdoses increased 52 percent from 2019 to 2021, with fentanyl as the principal factor in those deaths.

In December, DEA officials warned that Mexican drug cartels are mass-producing deadly fentanyl and fentanyl-laced fake Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Xanax and other pills, using chemicals sourced largely from China. These pills were found in every U.S. state in 2021.

Viewers can watch the town hall anywhere they stream Eyewitness News, including on Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."



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Law enforcement agencies and their partners across the region are working together to bring awareness to the severity of the drug problem.

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