Following "massive" fentanyl drug busts in Ohio, Detroit DEA warns of cartels shipping opioids

It's the size of your fingertip, takes the appearance of an over-the-counter pill and is responsible for the deaths of more than 47,000 people in 2018. To put that toll another way:

"Imagine if you take a 747 plane and fill it with people and put it into the ground every day. That's how many people we're losing to overdose deaths every day."

The opioid epidemic isn't a new story, and solutions are now in action to help addicts as lawsuits against drug makers reach the state level. But what is a new story is the makeup of these pills and the medium their taking to get to U.S. cities.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is sending out warnings that more and more counterfeit pills containing the drug fentanyl are coming into the U.S. from manufacturing cartels in Mexico.

"We're seeing pills that look like they're OxyContin, they look like they're Adderall, but actually they're laced with fentanyl," said Brian McNeal of the DEA Detroit Field Division.

McNeal said the Midwest is seeing an increase in this kind of drug due to the I-75 corridor. Earlier this year, the DEA has already seized 40 pounds of fentanyl in Toledo and another massive bust in Dayton two weeks ago. It's possible these drugs were meant for Detroit due to the city's presence as an international hub for trade.

"It was enough to kill the entire population of Ohio two or three times over," said McNeal. "Any way that you can think of it can come into the country. Hide it in a car, use the postal service, use a shipping service. It's readily available."

The DEA reports that 27 percent of the tablets the agency has seized nationwide from January to March contained deadly doses of fentanyl. A much more potent pain pill, a lethal dose amounts to two milligrams, which is about the size of a grain of salt.

However, unlike the drugs that helped addict people in the United States over the past few decades, McNeal describes this new wave of opioids spurred on by the cheap cost of manufacturing fentanyl and being made in "clandestine laboratories."

We're not talking a professional laboratory and what happens at the end isn't their concern it's about greed and it's about making money," he said. 

Unfortunately, to the naked eye, this drug looks like any other pill.