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DEA warns fake prescription pills with fentanyl and meth being sold online

Counterfeit pills ‘killing unsuspecting Americans at unprecedented rate,’ agency says
This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Oxycodone pills...
This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Oxycodone pills that are actually fentanyl that were seized and submitted to bureau crime labs. Street fentanyl is increasingly dangerous to users, with thousands of deaths in recent years blamed on the man-made opiate. But police say officers are at risk, too, because the drug can be inhaled if powder becomes airborne, or it can be absorbed through the skin. Fentanyl is sometimes placed in tablets of counterfeit prescription drugs, but also comes in the form of patches, powder and even sprays. (Tommy Farmer/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation via AP)(Tommy Farmer | AP)
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 1:02 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The Drug Enforcement Administration on Monday issued a public safety alert - its first in six years - warning Americans of an alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram.

The federal agency said it wants to raise public awareness of a “significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs and deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills.”

This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office shows fentanyl...
This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office shows fentanyl pills. Authorities say they've arrested Ryan Gaston, a man in a Cleveland suburb after seizing more than 900 fentanyl pills marked liked tablets of the less-potent opiate oxycodone. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner said that lookalike pills were likely to blame for some of the county's 19 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in January 2016. (Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office via AP)(AP)

DEA agents in all 50 U.S. states have seized more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills so far this year, more than the last two years combined. Laboratory testing reveals a “dramatic rise” in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.

Counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks and are made to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).

Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors, the DEA said.

The vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico, the DEA said.

This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Percocet pills...
This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fake Percocet pills that are actually fentanyl that were seized and submitted to bureau crime labs. Narcotics officers across the country are altering the way they do business due to concerns about fentanyl, a drug blamed in thousands of overdose deaths in recent years. Even minute amounts of fentanyl can be deadly, and police are being warned to avoid inhaling power or even touching the drug since it can be absorbed into the skin. (Tommy Farmer/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation via AP)(Tommy Farmer | AP)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year.

Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths.

Drug poisonings involving methamphetamine, increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, also continue to rise as illegal pills containing methamphetamine become more widespread.

The DEA urges all Americans to be vigilant and aware of the dangers of counterfeit pills, and to take only medications prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. For more information, click here.

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