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A law enforcement staff shows confiscated heroin before burning it in the headquarters of the Drug Control Agency in Dushanbe May 30, 2008. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov A law enforcement staff shows confiscated heroin before burning it in the headquarters of the Drug Control Agency in Dushanbe May 30, 2008. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov Photo of Steve Birr

4:11 PM 02/09/2018

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Police discovered a lethal haul of the synthetic painkiller fentanyl smuggled inside a package of frozen fish filets while conducting surveillance in New York City.

Detectives were conducting a drug trafficking investigation in the Bronx Feb. 1 when they spotted Johnny de Los Santos-Martinez in a white 2017 Acura MDX with two boxes in the back seat. After obtaining a search warrant police stopped the vehicle, discovering two coolers full of fish, chili and narcotics, reports ABC News.

One cooler contained two brick-shaped packages wrapped in green plastic hidden with frozen fish filets, as well as a vacuum sealed bag of chili with a brick-shaped package inside. The second cooler also contained frozen fish with another brick-shaped package inside. Officers suspected the substance was cocaine, but tests revealed it was much more deadly.

“The brick-shaped packages each consisted of a kilogram of fentanyl and together could have yielded over a million lethal doses worth up to $10 million dollars on the street,” said a press release from the Office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor.

Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The substance is fueling more overdose deaths as drug dealers increasingly cut the substance into heroin and cocaine supplies to maximize profits.

Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine that can be fatal in small doses to people who come into contact with it. Analogs like carfentanil, a synthetic replication of fentanyl used for tranquilizing elephants, are roughly 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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