The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a Public Safety Alert Monday warning of the influx of illegal counterfeit painkillers that contain illicit fentanyl or methamphetamine.
The Public Safety Alert, the first such warning in six years, focused on the spike in fentanyl and methamphetamine-laced pills that are being mass-produced by criminal drug groups, and are killing Americans at a rate that has never been seen before, according to a DEA press release.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA, said in the press release.
“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” Milgram said. “In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills containing fentanyl have a potently lethal dose.”
The counterfeit pills showing up in the U.S. are being mass-produced by Mexican criminal networks using Chinese-supplied chemicals, according to the press release.
According to the press release, the DEA seized more than 9.5 million pills in 2021, more than was seized in the last two years combined.
Laboratory analysis found an increase in the number of pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered to be a lethal amount.
The illicit pills look similar to opioid prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall, the press release said. The counterfeit illegal drugs are sold primarily on social media and e-commerce websites, making them easily available to kids.
There were more than 93,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2020, the largest one-year increase in history, according to the Center for Disease Control. Approximately 75% of the 93,000 deaths were attributed to an opioid, primarily fentanyl, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse said in a statement.