Fake Prescription Pills May Contain Fentanyl, Officials Warn

As the nation continues reopening and with Summer already upon us, officials are warning people that prescription pills sold illegally are often counterfeit and may contain deadly fentanyl. Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is 50 -100 times as potent as morphine.

Preliminary reporting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that overdoses in 2020 rose substantially. In fact, 2020 marked the single largest yearly increase in overdose fatalities since 1999. This was largely due to the economic toll, isolation, stress, and decreased access to addiction treatment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, fentanyl also shares much of the blame. In recent years, the drug has become increasingly notorious for being cut into low-quality heroin to make it stronger, resulting in many accidental overdoses. But fentanyl is also turning up in other drugs too, often with the same devastating effects.

Recently, representatives from the Illinois Poison Center released a warning to people considering using prescription pills recreationally at concerts and summer festivals: These pills may be counterfeit, even if they look just like the real thing.

“That’s what is so scary about this because looking at it, you can not tell,” Carol DesLauriers, the assistant vice president of the Illinois Poison Center said. “The illegal manufacturers of this drug deliberately make it look identical to a prescription opioid pill, including the imprint on the tablet.”

While drug dealers are, at best, not known for being scrupulous, the practice of cutting drugs with an extremely deadly substance seems terrible for business. So why is it happening so often? According to DesLauriers, it comes down to cost. “What keeps this drug in use by dealers is the fact the fentanyl is cheap and easy to produce.”

Fentanyl is itself a prescription opioid, sometimes administered to treat severe pain. However, much of the fentanyl sold on the streets is produced illegally in clandestine labs in Mexico and smuggled into the United States.

Many experts support a multi-pronged approach to combat the rise in overdoses, recommending expanding Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement for addiction treatment, more opioid treatment centers, and making methadone more available to people in recovery from opioid addiction.

Florida and many other states are also taking a hardline approach going after drug dealers. In March of 2021, a Charlotte County Grand Jury indicted a Venice woman with first-degree murder and several other charges for selling fentanyl to a woman that overdosed.

“I hope today’s history-making indictment brought forth by the Charlotte County Grand Jury serves as a stark reminder that selling, buying, or distributing drugs will not be tolerated,” said State Attorney Amira Fox.

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