The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued its first public safety alert in six years about mass-produced counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl that have killed unsuspecting users.
More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been confiscated in 2021 — more than the past two years combined — and many of them containing a lethal dose of at least two milligrams of fentanyl, according to the alert from the DEA.
“A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil,” the alert said.
The fake pills are being manufactured to look identical to prescription opioid medications like Xanax, Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. The DEA said the majority of the pills confiscated in the U.S. are being made in Mexico from chemicals supplied by China.
“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 more times more potent than morphine and believed to be driving cause of increased overdose deaths.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control reported 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020 — an increase of 20,000 from 2019.
“We are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children,” Milgram said.
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