(KTEN) — The Texoma region has seen a record increase in fentanyl-related deaths, arrests, and trafficking in recent years.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration says fentanyl is the region's deadliest drug threat.

"Our Dallas division covers all of Oklahoma and North Texas, said Special Agent-in-Charge Eduardo Chavez. "We seized a record number of fentanyl pills in 2022, quadruple in the amount received in 2021 — well over a million-and-a half pills."

The DEA reports that the spread of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills in the U.S. is likely due to Mexican criminal organizations seeking to further distribute fentanyl to prescription opioid user populations.

"We've seen drug cartels out of Mexico partner with drug cartels in China to import fentanyl — which is a cheaper, but just as powerful opioid — and press it to look like U.S. pharmaceuticals to capitalize on the opioid crisis in the U.S.," Chavez said.

Fentanyl is now showing up in a number of drug categories.

"Side-by-side, these counterfeit oxycodone pills look just like U.S. pharmaceuticals... same with counterfeit Xanax pills," Chavez said. "We've seen people start using this as a filler with drug trafficking organizations and things like methamphetamine and cocaine and heroin."

The DEA seized more than 50 million fentanyl pills in the U.S. in 2022.

Agents with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics say drug education is essential to address the crisis.

"Education at schools starting at a young age and educating people who are using drugs now, because this is the time to quit," said OBN spokesperson Mark Woodward. "They may not have another opportunity."