Fentanyl seized by Sioux Falls police in 2022 enough to kill 487K people

Statistics released by the Sioux Falls Police Department and county sheriff reported a 216% increase in the amount of fentanyl seized from 2020 to 2022.

Confiscated powder containing fentanyl.
A Drug Enforcement Administration chemist checks confiscated powder containing fentanyl.

SIOUX FALLS — One pill can kill.

That’s the message Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum and Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead had Tuesday, March 7, as the pair met publicly to discuss the state of crime in the city’s metropolitan area.

The Sioux Falls Area Drug Task Force seized 974.6 grams of fentanyl in 2022, according to statistics released Tuesday by Thum and Milstead. With the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimating the average lethal dose of fentanyl at just two milligrams — the equivalent of 10-15 grains of table salt — that’s enough to kill more than 487,000 people.

The amount seized in 2022 was 216% increase from 2020, when seizures totaled 308 grams of fentanyl, but 52% less than 2021, when enough fentanyl was confiscated to kill more than a million people.

Thum said that while the decrease from 2021 to 2022 may appear substantial, residents should be looking at the 2020 to 2022 difference, instead.


“Now, 2021 is a bit of an outlier. We had some massive seizures that year that kind of throw [the numbers] off. We’re not always trying to beat that next year, we’re just trying to work the cases and deal with supply,” Thum said. “We still seized a substantial amount compared to 2020, and it's still very prevalent in our community.”

Methamphetamine seizures have also been trending upward in the past decade, with the task force confiscating 65.5 pounds of the narcotic last year. That’s 49% lower than 2021’s record amount seized, but 2% higher than 2020 and 557% higher than 2014.

While overdose deaths both in terms of fentanyl and meth are on the rise across the nation, Thum said Sioux Falls is actually bucking that trend.

“If you look at national news, national stories you’ll see that national overdose deaths are rising every year,” he said. “It’s been a very important topic of conversation, and I'm happy to report that locally we saw a decrease in overdose deaths from 2021 to 2022.”

SF Overdose Deaths 2019-22.png
Sioux Falls saw 21 overdose deaths in 2022 — eight fewer than 2021 but one more than 2020.
Contributed / Sioux Falls Police Department

Though he admits that the city is still in need of messaging, Thum attributes the decline to law enforcement’s work to interrupt supply lines as well as community organizations that raise awareness to the dangers of narcotics use.

“We have to praise the community and different organizations and foundations, such as Emily's Hope, for being willing to talk about this topic with a variety of people in a variety of forums and settings,” Thum said, “and really we wanna keep pushing the discussion on this, especially for our young people.”

A five-decade veteran of law enforcement, Milstead serves as chairman of the National Sheriffs Association’s Drug Enforcement Committee, and regularly meets with DEA administrator Anne Milgrim. From those meetings, Milstead shared with the public some harrowing statistics he’s been provided.

“[The DEA] just recently changed their release on what’s happening on fentanyl today. They had put out that four out of every 10 fentanyl pills that are seized in the U.S. by the DEA have shown to be lethal doses. They just raised that six out of 10,” he explained. “It’s a very concerning trend to think that six of 10 of those typically counterfeit pills … can kill you.”


Milstead explained that fentanyl is often made in Mexico with chemicals from China. It’s then blended into counterfeit pills that appear to the untrained eye to be Vicodin, Ativan, Percocet or others and transported illegally into the United States for distribution on the street.

Violent crime rate was flat last year and lower than the 2020 spike. The police chief says he’s “pleased,” but not happy with the overall state of public safety in the city.

In his explanation, Milstead added a plea for South Dakotans to check up on their loved ones who may be struggling or at-risk for substance abuse.

“Please be aware if you have a loved one, someone who may be addicted to these opioids, in particular synthetic opioids like fentanyl, you need to get them help,” he said, “because what they’re doing will likely result in their death.”

Thum said additional awareness campaigns regarding the dangers of opioids are on-deck for Sioux Falls this year, but said avoiding fentanyl should be common sense.

“We need to keep educating everybody about the dangers of this drug. It's safe to say if you are buying drugs off the street it is not safe,” Thum said sternly. “It seems like common sense, but we need to reiterate that if a drug or a pill didn't come from your pharmacist, you probably shouldn't be taking it. … You only get to make one mistake sometimes when it comes to fentanyl.”

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A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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