As the Opioid epidemic escalates, the Drug Enforcement Administration on Sept. 27 issued its first safety alert in six years, warning about an “alarming increase” in fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The agency said it has seized more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills so far in 2021, which is more than the last two years combined. Through lab testing, the DEA found a dramatic increase in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.
The counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured to look like authentic prescription medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam and amphetamines. The pills are sold online and accessible to anyone with Internet access, according to the DEA.
“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in the alert. “In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. DEA is focusing resources on taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans.”
The warning comes a week after the American Medical Association released a report showing the number of drug-related overdoses and deaths continues to increase even though opioid prescriptions have fallen 44.4 percent in the last decade. The rise in overdoses and deaths is attributable to the increased prevalence of fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methamphetamine and cocaine in the street drug supply.