Fentanyl seizures up in San Antonio as drug dealers find customers on social media

Majority of local fentanyl found in fake prescription drugs; buyers usually unaware of danger, DEA says

Overdose deaths in the U.S. have officially hit the highest record ever, according to new data released by the CDC. DEA agents report a main culprit is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is dangerously addictive and deadly. That trend is unfortunately tracking in San Antonio too.

SAN ANTONIO – Overdose deaths in the U.S. have officially hit the highest record ever, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents report that a main culprit is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is dangerously addictive and deadly.

That trend is unfortunately tracking in San Antonio, too.

“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more potent than heroin. Two milligrams, the tip of a pencil, amount of fentanyl can kill someone,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Corey D. Handy Sr.

Handy said in the last six months there’s been a 48% increase in the seizures of fentanyl in San Antonio.

The majority of those seizures is in the form of fake prescription pills.

“The DEA lab shows that four out of 10 fake pills are laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl,” Handy said.

The DEA reported 432 overdose-related deaths in Bexar County in 2020. with 37% of those deaths from methamphetamine, and 16% from drugs mixed with fentanyl.

A new CDC report shows overdoses in America in 2021 were the highest on record.

Nearly 108,000 lives were lost, and 66% of those deaths were related to fentanyl.

Experts fear the problem will only get worse, which is why the DEA started an awareness campaign last fall called One Pill Can Kill.

“Please don’t take pills that are not prescribed by your doctor and dispensed by a reputable pharmacy,” Handy said.

Handy said the Mexican cartels are the main source of fentanyl in the U.S. and are working to increase the availability of drugs and to expand their domestic brand in San Antonio.

“Drug dealers and drug manufacturers, they only have to make a little tiny bit to produce the effect that the consumer wants. So it’s great for business when it comes to, you know, illicit drug use,” said Dr. Lenoy Galvez, a psychiatrist with Baptist Medical Network.

Fentanyl is extremely addictive, meaning they easily develop repeat customers, whether or not they know they’re consuming fentanyl.

The issue with curbing that goal is the way drug dealers are reaching their clients.

“They’re no longer hanging out on the street corners. They’re utilizing social media places like the dark web,” he said.

That’s why parents need to be hyper-aware.

“So, now you have kids that if they happen to get a counterfeit pill, whether it’s Xanax, thinking that they’re going to treat their anxiety, whether it’s Adderall for ADHD, they’re ingesting fentanyl,” Galvez said.

Galvez said parents should look for signs of change in their kids.

“He’s not really bathing, he’s not really engaged in terms of family dynamics. If he’s actively intoxicated, you’ll see the pinpoint pupils,” Galvez said. “So, the pupils are going to constrict or they’ll be really, really tiny. They’ll be euphoric, but they’ll kind of be nodding in and out of consciousness.”

Handy said addiction can be life-long, so it’s crucial to prevent it from happening by constantly checking your child’s social media accounts.

“Please, please talk to your kids about fake pills, the dangers of fake drugs, and certainly fentanyl,” Handy said.

One conversation could save their lives.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Physical Symptoms:

  • Constricted pupils
  • drowsiness
  • insomnia
  • psychomotor agitation

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • impaired judgement
  • attention difficulties
  • concentration difficulties
  • impaired memory
  • cravings for fentanyl
  • suicidal ideation

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • depression
  • euphoria, typically followed by apathy
  • declined interest in things one was once interested in

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Jason Foster is an executive producer at KSAT. He's worked in the news industry in Texas for more than 15 years, including as a photojournalist.