DEA Public Safety Alert on Counterfeit Pills
Did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States over a 12-month period? This number is higher than ever before. One reason we are seeing more Americans die from drug overdoses is due to people taking drugs that they think contain a certain amount or type of drug, when it contains a stronger medication at a much higher dose, leading to an accidental overdose.
In 2021, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) seized more illegal, deadly fake pills than it has in the previous two years combined. That’s a 430% increase since 2019. For this reason, the DEA came out with a warning for the American public. This warning does not apply to legitimate pills purchased from a pharmacy via a valid prescription from a doctor, rather to pills being purchased online or through illegal drug dealers.
It seems that criminal drug networks are creating fake pills on a huge scale and marketing them to the public as legitimate prescription pills. The pills being made illegitimately are easily sold on social media or e-commerce platforms, making them very accessible. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more desirable to purchase drugs online, which could be contributing to the rise in people accessing these drugs. These counterfeit pills look almost exactly like the legitimate prescription version, so it would be hard to know they are fake. The problem is that these pills often contain a drug called fentanyl, which is a strong opioid medication. The DEA has tested the pills they’ve seized and found that 40% of pills containing fentanyl have a potentially deadly dose of 2mg or more. Some of the pills they’ve seized contain methamphetamine, which also could lead to a dangerous overdose. The DEA has found that these fake pills are in every single state across the country. Commonly, the counterfeit pills are made to look like the prescription pills Oxycontin® (oxycodone), Percocet® (oxycodone + acetaminophen), Vicodin® (hydrocodone + acetaminophen), Xanax® (alprazolam), or Adderall® (mixed amphetamines). These pills can go by many nicknames, for example, oxycodone might be referred to as Oxy, Roxy, Beans, or Blues. Alprazolam (Xanax®) could be called Xanies, Zanbars, Z-bars, School Bus, or Sticks. Nicknames for Adderall® include Addy, Amps, Smart Pills, Study Buddies, or Study Skittles.
The only way you can get prescription pills in a safe way is through a prescription from a healthcare provider and taking it to a licensed pharmacy to be filled. Buying drugs online is dangerous and you can never truly know what you’re getting. Check out the DEA’s campaign, One Pill Can Kill, at DEA.gov/onepill and/or resource two below to learn more.