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Opioid crisis: Enough fentanyl to kill 27 million people seized in Nebraska drug bust

The shadow of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is cast on a photograph of heroin and fentanyl during a news conference on the nation's opioid crisis at the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. In an attempt to fight America's opioid epidemic, Graham introduced legislation that would increase the punishment for fentanyl distribution and trafficking. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A drug bust in Nebraska led to the seizure of 118 pounds of fentanyl — enough to kill 27 million people. The fentanyl bust was one of the largest in the U.S. and the largest in Nebraska, the Wichita Eagle reported. The synthetic pain killer is a key factor in the nation’s opioid abuse crisis.

How lethal is fentanyl?

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as little as two milligrams of fentanyl is lethal for most people. Based on that figure, 118 pounds of fentanyl is enough to kill about 26.7 million people. Fentanyl is between 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin and between 50 to 100 times more deadly than morphine, according to the DEA.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, a white powder, is about the size of a few grains of table salt, the report states. That small amount is enough to create a severe or fatal reaction in both users and people who are exposed to it.

In a news release, Nebraska state troopers stated that the narcotics were seized following a traffic stop around 10:30 a.m. on April 26 on I-80 near Kearney. A semi was driving near the shoulder of the roadway and when it stopped, the trooper suspected criminal activity, according to the report. During a search of the truck, troopers found a "false compartment" in the empty trailer. Inside the compartment troopers found "42 foil-wrapped packages" that were initially believed to contain cocaine and fentanyl.

Because the fentanyl is highly toxic, troopers did not perform a field test. Instead, the drugs were sent to a crime lab.

What were the charges?

The truck driver, Felipe Genao-Minaya, 46, and a passenger, Nelson Nunez, 52 — both of New Jersey — were charged with suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and no Drug Tax stamp. They were booked into the Buffalo County Jail and bond was set at $100,000.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people in the U.S. die each day after overdosing on opioids. The problem impacts the U.S. by an estimated $78.5 billion per year based on costs for health care, lost productivity, criminal justice and addiction treatment.

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