US Fentanyl Seizures Skyrocket

Wed 22 May, 2024

                                                              By Eve Bender

US fentanyl pill seizures increased by more than 8000% between 2017 and 2023, new data show.


Investigators analyzed data from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program from 2017 through 2023.

To assess trends in illicit fentanyl availability, investigators used eight indicators of potential shifts in illicit fentanyl supply, including total seizures, powder seizures, pill seizures, and the total weight of seizures.


A total of 66,303 fentanyl seizures were identified. Of the total number of seizures, 67% were in powder form and 33% were pills.

The total number of pill seizures during the study period increased by more than 8500% — from 134 in 2017 to 115,537 in 2023.

In 2023, the greatest number of fentanyl seizures was in Florida (n = 2089), followed by Arizona (n = 1783) and California (n = 1440).

Western United States experienced the greatest increase in seizures, particularly in pill form, suggesting a significant regional shift in fentanyl distribution. California had the greatest number of pills seized (n = 38.6 million) and also the greatest weight of powder seized (4315 kg).

The findings highlight the rapidly changing nature of the illicit fentanyl market, with an increasing prevalence of fentanyl pills.


"About half of seized fentanyl is now in pill form, suggesting that the illicit drug landscape has rapidly changed," Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, of NYU Langone Health, New York, said in a press release. "The study's findings underscore the evolving challenge of fentanyl in the illicit drug market, emphasizing the need for healthcare professionals to be vigilant in recognizing and responding to the risks associated with fentanyl, especially in pill form," he added.


One limitation of the study is the inability to differentiate whether seizures were solely fentanyl, fentanyl combined with other drugs, or fentanyl analogs. Additionally, the reliance on HIDTA data may not fully represent the extent of illicit fentanyl availability.


Palamar reports a consulting or advisory relationship with the Washington Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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