The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration’s testing laboratory revealed more than half of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022 contained a potentially fatal dose.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. The DEA laboratory has found that six out of ten now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
The findings are a sharp increase from 2021 when the DEA laboratory found four out of ten fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contained a potentially lethal dose. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose.
“This marks a dramatic increase – from four out of ten to six out of ten – in the number of pills that can kill,” said Administrator Anne Milgram in a public safety alert issued Monday. “These pills are being mass-produced by the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel in Mexico. Never take a pill that wasn’t prescribed directly to you. Never take a pill from a friend. Never take a pill bought on social media. Just one pill is dangerous and one pill can kill.”
The federal agency issued a Public Safety Alert last year on the trafficking of fentanyl-laced pills throughout the nation. According to the DEA, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco (CJNG) Cartel, are the main producers the counterfeit pills, which look identical to OxyContin, Percocet, and Xanax. They are often deadly, the DEA warned.
The DEA seized more than 20.4 million fake prescription pills in 2021. Earlier this year, the federal agency sized 10.2 million fake pills in three months in a nationwide operational surge to target the trafficking of fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription pills.
This announcement comes days after the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force released their annual report, which found an 869% increase in unintentional fentanyl-caused deaths between 2017 to 2021, from 84 deaths to 814, respectively.
The report found that there has been a 44% decrease in the annual number of dispensed prescription opioid pills per resident from 36.5 in 2014 to 20.6 in 2020. Earlier this year, federal officials named San Diego county the “national epicenter” for fentanyl trafficking.
Officials have warned “one pill can kill” due to the fatal potency of fentanyl.
“Prevention is key to stopping the death toll,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. “Parents need to talk with their kids about fentanyl. A tiny amount will kill, and people are overdosing by accident, with many unaware that they are even taking fentanyl. No drug is safe in this era. Do not experiment with any illicit drug, because it might contain fentanyl. And it just might be the last thing you do.”
Parents can refer to the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force website: https://www.sdpdatf.org/community-parent-fentanyl-toolkit to view education and awareness materials. For more information on the dangers of fentanyl, visit Fentanyl Awareness (dea.gov).