SOMERSET — Chief Todd Costa wishes to share a warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about an increase in the availability and lethality of fake prescription pills.
The DEA reports that fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine are being mass-produced by criminal drug networks, deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills and killing unsuspecting people 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. The counterfeit pills are often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them widely available to people of all ages who have a smartphone.
Because the pills can be sold online and through social media, Chief Costa also urges parents/guardians to discuss with their children the dangers associated with misusing prescription drugs. According to the 2015 results of the CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.8% of high school students took a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription at least once in their life. Several resources for parents to discuss these issues with their children can be found on the DEA website.
The public safety alert coincides with the launch of the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign, which aims to educate the public about the dangers of counterfeit pills. The DEA and the Somerset Police Department urge community members to be vigilant and aware of the dangers of counterfeit pills, and to take only medications prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous and potentially lethal.
This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. Anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.
The DEA reports seizing counterfeit pills 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 also reveals a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.
Drug overdose rates in the U.S. are currently reaching the highest level in history, and drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the U.S. last year. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this increase in overdose deaths. Methamphetamine is also increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, and drug poisonings involving methamphetamine continue to rise as illegal pills containing methamphetamine become more widespread. Drug trafficking is also inextricably linked to violence in communities across the country.