The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert on September 27, 2021 to warn Americans of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. Calling its public safety campaign “One Pill Can Kill,” the DEA’s first public safety alert in six years seeks to raise public awareness of a significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs, deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills, and are killing unsuspecting Americans at an unprecedented rate.
According to the DEA, counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks and are made to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®). 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.
The DEA reports that counterfeit pills have been seized in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities. More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. DEA laboratory testing revealed a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 93,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2020. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the primary driver of this record increase.
The DEA warns the public to take only those medications that are prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. Any pills not meeting this standard should be considered unsafe and potentially deadly.