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Houston, Texas – Every day, scientists at the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab have their hands on one of the deadliest drugs in America.
“This here is a kilo of fentanyl,” says DPS Forensic Scientist Jennifer Hatch as she handles the package wearing gloves.
Hatch gave Fox News a tour of the DPS Houston lab, explaining that nearly every street drug she analyzes is laced with the synthetic opioid.
“We are more surprised when they do come back legitimate, than when they don’t,” says Hatch.
Last year, fentanyl was the number one cause of death among Americans 18 to 45 years-old, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most of the time the drug is pressed into pill form. Though, authorities also confiscate kilos of fentanyl smuggled in from the border. Those large shipments also end up at the lab.
DPS says the kilo of fentanyl could produce up to 500,000 lethal doses. Which has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people.
Before the drug ends up at the lab, law enforcement has to find it. Which is not an easy task. Investigators say the Mexican Cartels hide it in everything from tires to water pumps. One of the people leading the charge to find the drug is Texas DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez.
“Every state is a border state because of what is taking place right now,” says Lt. Olivarez.
The Lieutenant is one of many leading the charge in Texas to stop the pounds of what he calls poison being shipped into the U.S. from China and Mexico.
“The drug cartels are using the chemicals to mass produce fake pills,” says Lt. Olivarez.
Fox took a close look at the cannot tell the difference between the prescription pills and the counterfeit pills that are laced with fentanyl. Even scientists must use high-tech instruments to analyze the components to know for sure.
“These are all fake Xanax tablets, and they look excellent,” says Hatch.
DPS says the cartel makes big money off the synthetic opioid, but Americans pay the ultimate price.
“It is killing hundreds of Americans daily,” says Lt. Olivarez.
“It is so bad right now; do you think it will continue to get worse?” asked Fox News correspondent Alexis McAdams.
The DPS Lieutenant expecting the death toll to continue to climb.
“It is not slowing down”, says Lt. Olivarez.