HOUSTON – It doesn’t take long for Alamdar Hamdani, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, to provide some context regarding the frightening power behind fentanyl.
“This pencil right here right, fentanyl, enough fentanyl just to cover the tip of that pencil, that is enough to kill my 17-year-old boy,” said Hamdani in an interview with KPRC 2 Investigates.
One of the most lethal drugs on the streets has the ability for a vast quantity to be transported in little spaces.
According to one law enforcement expert, an average backpack can contain approximately 15 kilos. When it comes to the potency of the drug, it translates to enough fentanyl to kill the population of Greater Houston - approximately 7.5 million people - according to measuring statistics from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
So, where does it come from?
“When it comes into Texas, it comes in normally through the cartels,” said Hamdani.
The cartels view his district as one of the key gateways for fentanyl with one goal in mind.
“All the cartel thinks about, or cares about, is making money at any violent means they can get it,” said Hamdani.
The cartels’ drug operations also are extremely organized, according to one of the top crimefighters along the Texas-Mexico border.
“Their tentacles touch the global market and to be able to do that, you have to be smart. You have to have your own market strategies, your own market analysis, your own perspective on taking your business forward,” said Richard T. Sanchez, the Assistant Special Agent in charge of the DEA’s McAllen’s Office
Joel Morales, who heads operations for the Palmer Drug Abuse Program in McAllen, says seeing addicts who are hung up on fentanyl is non-existent.
“You’ll never get someone in here that says, ‘I’m addicted to fentanyl’ because normally if they would do fentanyl, it would probably kill them,” said Morales.
The ability to disguise fentanyl by lacing it with other drugs is another powerful component for Morales. “I believe, they don’t even know what they have and that is what is causing a lot of problems here in the valley.”
As for how it ends up in the states?
That process begins thousands of miles away from the cartels’ home base.
“The chemical ingredients for fentanyl comes in from China, into Mexico and then the cartel makes the fentanyl and laces their product with the fentanyl and then it comes up through into the United States,” said Hamdani.
Hamdani says in the Houston area, it is those who are between the ages of 14 and 30 who are primarily tied to fentanyl cases with the majority of parents having no solid understanding of the drug and its deadly potential.
So how can one protect a child, loved one, or even a friend from making a deadly mistake?
The solution is simple, according to Sanchez.
“If someone takes a pill that is not given to them by a licensed pharmacist or doctor, they are taking a chance on their life,” he said.