The Drug Enforcement Administration and Utah State University Tooele Extension are warning community members about an alarming increase and availability of lethal fake prescriptions containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The DEA recently released a public safety alert, the first of its kind in six years, to raise awareness of a significant surge in fake pills that are mass-produced in labs.
More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized this year across the United States — more than the past two years combined, according to the DEA.
“DEA 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,” said DEA administrator Anne Milgram. “A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.”
The counterfeit pills are made to look like real prescription opioid medications, Xanax, or stimulants, like amphetamines, and are being produced in Mexico and China by drug traffickers in illegal labs.
“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,” said Milgram.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Milgram continued. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potential 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. Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.”
Because of the fake prescriptions, the DEA has launched a campaign called “One Pill Can Kill.”
“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,” said Milgram.
For more information about the campaign, visit www.dea.gov/onepill.
Utah State University Tooele Extension has joined forces with the DEA in warning residents about fake prescriptions.
“There has been an over 400% increase in the last two years of these fake prescriptions,” said Maren Voss, assistant professor of health and wellness at Utah State University Tooele extension. “Fentanyl when it gets into the drug supply its 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. When something fake looks like a prescription pill and people think they are getting the standard dose they are used to, it’s so easy for a person to overdose. It can take one pill to throw a person into an overdose.”
When asked if these fake prescriptions and fentanyl have been an issue in Tooele County, Voss said yes.
“We definitely are seeing that this is impacting Tooele County,” she said. “It’s hard to say how big of a problem it is, because we don’t have much data but it definitely is a problem.”
Last year, more than 93,000 individuals died of a drug overdose in the United States, a majority of those from Fentanyl.
Data on deaths isn’t available for the state yet or for Tooele County.