Drug overdose deaths have shot up almost 40% in the U.S. during the past year, leaving over 80,000 Americans dead from opioids alone. Fentanyl appears to be the driver of the increase.
Our story begins high in the Sierra mountains in Sinaloa state, Mexico. Here, the infamous Sinaloa Cartel is hard at work, cooking up the world's most dangerous illegal drug: fentanyl. PBS NewsHour secured exclusive access to a top player who takes us inside the drug trade and its lawless culture of impunity that few with cameras ever witness.
However, law-abiding Mexicans are standing up to the drug cartels. We meet a group of farmers, shop merchants, and laborers who are forming vigilante groups who are taking up arms and fighting back against the cartel.
As the drugs are carried by small groups of 10 from the northern border of Mexico across the southern border of the U.S., we spend time with an armed militia group, who is looking to make citizens arrests and pass on their bounties to U.S. Border Patrol.
Meanwhile, U.S. government officials have seized about 322% more fentanyl this year. PBS NewsHour has secured rare access to the Drug Enforcement Administration and its elite forces that conduct raids that try to make a dent in America's deadly fentanyl addiction.
However, addicts in America are still struggling as the country deals with record-high unemployment. Public gatherings are gradually decriminalized, recovery options have increased, but the desire to use is still embedded in many.