DEA Concludes Five-Month Long Fentanyl Seizure Operation, Recovers Enough to Kill 36 Million: How Fentanyl Brings Concerns to Employers and Safety-Sensitive Jobs

Addict and Drugs


A recent five-month long operation of fentanyl seizures concluded this month after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforced a ‘’One Pill Can Kill’’ initiative, resulting in 980lb of fentanyl being taken off the streets. The amount of the lethal poison recovered was enough to kill 10% of the American population, and the consequences of this drug being easily accessible and available to communities takes a great toll on the workforce and public safety.

In August 2022, ASAP attended the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA) Conference in Denver where keynote speaker Brian Besser, Special Agent with the DEA, discussed how fentanyl impacts our communities, and the history-making seizures across the nation. Responsible for the investigative, enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory strategies of the Denver Field Division, Besser’s expertise enables him to target the most wanted of drug traffickers, international criminal organizations, and violent gangs. With the recent rise in fentanyl use, recovery, and overdose deaths, it is of great concern about how impacts of fentanyl use can affect our nations workplace with so many safety sensitive employees in the workplace that could adversely impact the public.

“As part of the One Pill Can Kill initiative, the DEA and its law enforcement partners seized more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder during the period of May 23 through September 8, 2022,” the DEA released this week. “The amount of fentanyl taken off the streets during this surge is equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses removed from the illegal drug supply.”

During the investigation, the DEA was able to link some of the cases to social media platforms, where younger generations can connect with cartel and suppliers, making accessibility to these drugs simple. Fentanyl is emerging into the day-to-day lives of children to young adults, and the most basic of substances are being laced with this dangerous substance, remaining the deadliest drug threat facing the United States today. Just 2mg of fentanyl is enough to be a lethal dose, and because it takes a such a small about to produce a high, drug dealers are now frequently mixing it into heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. Traffickers have expanded their means of distribution and inventory by offering fentanyl in a variety of pill forms, from bright colors and shapes to a range of sizes.

Alongside the dangers of fentanyl and opioid use in the workplace, the country has also seen the shifting impacts of mental health in the workplace, according to the American Medical Association. There has been an increase in opioid-related mortality and ongoing concerns for those with substance use disorders (SUDs). When an employee has a violation for substance use, the repercussions are felt by both the employee and employer: for example Department of Transportation (DOT) safety-sensitive employees, employers’ must remove the employee from safety-sensitive duties, the employees livelihood and career are put on hold, the employer faces a loss of productivity, costs are increased to recruit, hire and train new employees, and the cost to replace a skilled employee is one-third of their annual earnings, at minimum.

There are many factors and safety concerns that take a toll on employers if a safety-sensitive worker is under the influence of this dangerous opioid. An employee may exhibit drowsiness, confusion, sedation, trouble walking or talking, dizziness or even become unconscious, experiencing noticeable mood swings. These types of behaviors can pose a great threat to the safety-sensitive industries, causing potential danger to themselves, co-workers, and the public.

If you are an employer that is having an issue with potential misuse and impairment in the workplace, please reach out to American Substance Abuse Professionals (ASAP). We can support you with DOT and non-DOT supervisory training for reasonable suspicion/impairment detection, second chance programs through substance use evaluations, aftercare and follow up testing monitoring, as well as promote employee awareness on substance use and abuse. Call ASAP at 410-366-3899 x607. Work Safely.

ASAP (2022).

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021). Fentanyl Drug Facts. Retrieved from


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