Houston DEA hosts fentanyl summit, families speak about their tragic experiences

Ryan Garcia, a 17-year-old from Austin who loved football, passed away before he could get his driver's license. He died from fentanyl poisoning on February 11. 

"One pill. He made a mistake," says his mother Rebecca Benavides. "I don't want anybody else to go through what I'm going through." 

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Benavides was one of several mothers who spoke about their loved ones dying from fentanyl poisoning at the Regional Family Summit, hosted by the Houston Drug Enforcement Administration's Office. Since May, the local office has seized over 350,000 fentanyl pills disguised as another drug. 

At least 150,000 of them contained a lethal dose of fentanyl - which totals to saving about 154,000 lives. Agents say the reason these drugs are becoming so prominent and dangerous is the ability to quickly mass-produce them. 

"Before to get any type of illegal drug, you had to go to a shady side of town, or you had to wait on crops," says Deputy Special Agent Miguel Madrigal. "Fentanyl's completely different. It's year-round. You can buy it off of your phone, social media, and order pills. It can be delivered to your home." 

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Madrigal says large amounts of precursor chemicals from China are sent to Mexico where inclandestine labs are able to produce thousands of pills per day. 

"It's a widespread amount of possible consumers, from teenagers to housewives. It's readily available. The biggest challenge is, as is our campaign, "One Pill Can Kill." You can get one bad pill, and you could die," says Madrigal.

The Houston Division is conducting at least 70 investigations related to fentanyl. Each one of their offices has established a task force for these types of cases. 

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Ryan Garcia's mother says she's devoted to becoming a part of the solution to help other families with the growing problem. 

"I don't want anybody else to go through what I'm going through," says Benavides. "I'm just missing Ryan, and wishing we knew the knowledge about fentanyl before he was poisoned."

You can learn more about fentanyl about how it's impacting the Houston area by visiting the DEA's website.