NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a public safety alert warning Americans of the increase in lethal fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Calling the nationwide surge 'alarming', officials say the counterfeit pills -- that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks -- are marketed as legitimate prescription pills, but are killing unsuspecting Americans at an unprecedented rate.
The counterfeit pills have been seized in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities. More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined.
The most noticeable increase is in pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.
The counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam (Xanax); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall).
"Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before," said Anne Milgram, with the DEA. "In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose."
Officials say the vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the US are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico.
The drug overdose crisis in the United States is a serious public safety threat with rates currently reaching the highest level in history. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the US 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 stresses that the alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. They say anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.
The DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. Click here for more information.
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