(CNSNews.com) - Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, says her agency's top concern is the fentanyl that is trafficked into the United States by Mexican cartels and sold through social media.
Shortly after Milgram spoke, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told a news conference that Americans must get serious about the fentanyl threat, and she made three recommendations, including border security. (Read her remarks below.)
"Well first of all, we believe that the greatest threat facing our communities, our families, our kids, is the deadly fentanyl that we are seeing in the United States that is brought here by the two cartels in Mexico; Sinaloa and the CJNG Jalisco cartel, period," Milgram told Fox News on Wednesday.
"We are focused on this. We just finished a four-month operational effort where we took 10 million fake fentanyl pills off the street that look like they're real pills, like they're oxy or they're Percocet or they're Hydrocodone.
"We also took almost 1,000 pounds of fentanyl. Why that's important is the work of the men and women of DEA in less than four months, that amount of fentanyl is the equivalent of 36 million potential lethal doses."
Fentanyl now comes in "rainbow" colors, Milgram said, apparently designed to appeal to younger children.
"We have not seen any connection to Halloween," she said. "And I want to be very clear, if we see it, I promise, you have my commitment, any credible evidence, we will come out, and we will tell you.
“What we do see is social media. We see fake pills like the blue oxy's that you just -- that you just showed. We see rainbow pills; a new tactic being used by the cartels.
"And here's what we worry about, we have middle schoolers and high schoolers who are dying of fentanyl poisoning. We have 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds who are dying. And so, we are not seeing it in elementary school, we have not seen with Halloween candy.
"But the bottom line is that this is all over social media. And so, we know it's out there. Parents, we are begging families and parents to talk with their loved ones and to talk with their children. Never take a pill that wasn't prescribed directly to you. Help your child come up with an exit strategy. What do you do if a coach or your best friend or another member of your family offers your kid a pill? What should they do?
"No legitimate pharmaceuticals can be sold on social media, so make sure your kids know that. And finally, just understand that many people who are dying of fentanyl poisoning had no idea that they were taking fentanyl. And the cartels don't care."
Milgram said the DEA is "going after" the two cartels that dominate the fentanyl supply chain, using chemicals from China to produce the deadly drug in Mexico. She said the DEA has created two "counter-threat teams," one for each of the Mexican cartels that are distributing fentanyl.
"And we're targeting the entire network," she said. "It's really important to say this -- we can't just take out the top of the network and the person on our streets. We have to do those things; we also need to essentially degrade the entire network."
‘We've got to get serious about this, folks.’
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told a press briefing yesterday that she recently met with a group of law enforcement officials: "And they wanted to talk mostly about drug trafficking," she said.
"And so we started with the normal conversation centering around methamphetamine. That's still the number one drug of choice in Iowa. However, what was new to this recurring conversation is that we are seeing more fentanyl in Iowa, and this is a real issue. They are very worried about what this is doing to our communities.
“So I asked them, okay, where is it coming from? Yes, you know where I'm going with this. It's the wide open southern border. And they said, this administration's inability to stop the flow coming in from our southern border is poisoning our Iowa communities. It flows up Interstate 35. It hits other highways and byways all along the way, including I-80, and it runs all across the United States. So we have got to do something about this.
"I've got a couple of different common sense solutions that would help curb this. One is charging those distributors who knowingly deliver products tainted with fentanyl, charge them with felony murder.
“The second thing is, there's a lot of spotters along our border working for the drug cartels and it is imposing steeper fines on those that are spotters enabling the cartels, as well as a maximum prison time of up to ten years.
“We've got to get serious about this, folks. Our children are at risk, our populations are at risk, and we are knowingly allowing it to happen here in the United States by not closing up our border and enforcing stiffer penalties with the drug cartels and their enablers."
The DEA has released a "One Pill Can Kill" public awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of counterfeit pills.