Deadly dupes: Nationwide spike in mass-overdoses, teen deaths due to fentanyl-laced drugs, DEA says

'Iso' is a new emerging drug that is said to be just as dangerous and deadly as fentanyl, DEA warns

ByIsabel Rosales, CNN
Friday, July 1, 2022
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The Drug Enforcement Administration is reporting a nationwide spike in mass overdoses. One dangerous drug is behind it all -- fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is sounding the alarm on a deadly trend amid a nationwide spike in mass overdoses.

One dangerous drug is behind it all: fentanyl.

It's so bad, we're losing a life to overdose every five minutes, according to the director of National Drug Control Policy.

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What is driving this rise and the new drug authorities worry could be next.

Across all 50 states, fentanyl is running rampant.

One of the most recent cases that made national headlines was a frantic 911 call out of South Florida after police say five West Point cadets on spring break overdosed.

"We took some coke and we are not getting some responses right now," the caller tells dispatchers.

Authorities say the drugs were laced with fentanyl.

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It's part of a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass overdoses that is so concerning that the DEA is warning other law enforcement agencies to be at the ready.

"Here we have three kilos of fentanyl. This is enough fentanyl to kill a million and a half people," said Rashida Weathers, who runs the DEA lab in Maryland.

Her team tests drugs seized in DEA busts.

"We're seeing cocaine laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin," she added.

One of the biggest threats she sees these days is counterfeit pills.

At DEA labs, authorities say, two out of every five pills found contain fentanyl that have a deadly amount in them.

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The drug is easy to find and cheaply made.

"I have 20 years with DEA. I can't tell the difference if it's a legitimate pill or a counterfeit pill," said Jarod Forget, special agent in charge of the DEA Washington Division. "So what's troubling about it is a lot of people that are dying are frankly being duped into taking fentanyl when they didn't really know what they were taking."

Officials say victims are getting younger and younger, and often use apps like "Snapchat" to buy the deadly dupes.

"Certainly, as a father, it's greatly concerning," Forget said.

There is even one they call "lucky charms."

"I think that pills like these, even the counterfeit pills that we're seeing, are very intentionally marketed to a younger audience," Weathers said when asked if she thinks drug dealers are purposely going after kids.

It only takes a tiny amount of fentanyl to kill someone. Last year, more Americans died from fentanyl than from gun violence or car crashes combined, according to the CDC.

Shelby Cooper lost her youngest brother to a fentanyl overdose.

Now, memories are all she has left of him.

Her brother Ryan was 22 years old when he died from an overdose last year.

"I did hug him through the body bag and that was the last time I hugged him," she recalled.

His family ultimately pieced it together, figuring out that Ryan ordered pills online.

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They said he never knew they were laced with fentanyl.

"We should be worried. We should be doing everything in our power to fight this and find ways to keep this fentanyl from coming in," Cooper said.

Law enforcement is locking up dealers and busting drug smuggling at the border.

"We can't do it alone," Forget said. "It's not just a law enforcement problem."

The battle is relentless and the DEA is now seeing a new threat emerge known as "iso."

The agency said it is as dangerous and deadly as fentanyl but hasn't yet boomed.

"The next drug of the future will happen. Drug trafficking is always evolving," Forget said.

That's why Cooper became a prevention specialist. She works to save the next Ryan.

"This can really affect anyone. There is no discrimination," Cooper said.