Counterfeit Pills—‘Widely Available’ & ‘More Lethal’

Counterfeit Pills: One Pill Can Kill You


The DEA doesn’t mince words:

“One Pill Can Kill!”

Prescription pills not obtained from a licensed pharmacy are not only illegal to possess, but when taken can also be dangerous and even deadly. You should take no pills that weren’t prescribed specifically for you; you certainly shouldn’t trust that any pills illegally sold to you will be safe. 

There’s a good chance those pills might be fakes—fakes with potentially fatal side effects.

In a recent PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT, the Drug Enforcement Agency warned that counterfeit pills are “widely available” and “more lethal than ever before.” DEA seizures of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl have increased 430% since 2019.

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A Speck Can Kill

Just a two milligram speck of fentanyl can kill a person. (That’s only 0.00007% of one ounce.) Yet criminals continue to routinely use the synthetic opioid to produce their phony pills, which they pass along to “customers” who believe they’re purchasing legitimate, though illegally-acquired, prescription medications.

Dan Cummings can’t discuss specifics about ongoing investigations, but the Jackson County Drug Task Force’s Officer In Charge stresses pursuing drug dealers who sell “these poison pills” is a top priority. (A year ago, the Task Force confiscated—in a single seizure—3,000 pills laced with a heavy concentration of fentanyl.)

“We’re doing everything we can to keep these pills from being sold to unsuspecting people who need our help,” says Cummings. “They think they’re only buying OxyContin or some other medication when what they’re getting could kill them.

“I want to make this clear: the Task Force goes after drug traffickers to prevent them from harming other people. When we encounter the people the traffickers are preying on, we try to get them into [substance use disorder] treatment. We try to get them help.” 

‘The Only Safe Medications’

Earlier this month COMBAT Director Vince Ortega cited the role of prescription medications in triggering American’s opioid overdose epidemic. (October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month.

“Now we need greater awareness about all the counterfeit pills that are out there,” points out Ortega. “One of these pills—one—can be a lethal overdose.”

Since 2019, lab testing has revealed that for every five fentanyl-laced pills the DEA has seized two contained a potentially fatal dose.

“The only safe medications,” the DEA states, “are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.”


» The 'Gateway Drugs' To The Opioid Crisis
Prescription_Medicines FLASHDuring National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, COMBAT Director Vince Ortega is urging people to remember prescribed painkillers were the “gateway drugs” that triggered America's ongoing opioid crisis. Across the nation, opioid overdoses claimed nearly 50,000 lives in 2019. Despite efforts to curtail the use of—and addictiveness of—prescribed opioid medications, the FDA notes, “The scope of the opioid crisis continues to grow.”

» Task Force Seizes Fentanyl-Laced Pills
Just A SpeckA two milligram dose of fentanyl can be lethal. That’s why the Jackson County Drug Task Force’s seizure of 3,000 pills stamped as OxyContin but laced with fentanyl almost certainly saved lives—and sounded alarms. As COMBAT Director Vince Ortega points out, swallowing a tablet with fentanyl in it “could be every bit as deadly as biting down on a cyanide capsule.” While morphine is 1½ times stronger than oxycodone, the semi-synthetic opioid in OxyContin, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
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Deadly Pills Being Seizing At Record Rates

The DEA and its law enforcement partners across the nation are seizing deadly fake pills at record rates. So far in 2021, more counterfeit pills have been seized than in all of 2020 and 2019 combined.

» DEA Counterfeit Pills Fact Sheet