NEW JERSEY — As U.S. overdose deaths reach an all-time high, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says Mexican drug cartels are now sending prescription pills laced with fentanyl into the U.S.
It has long been known that illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine often contain fentanyl, but now even prescription pills are coming into the country laced with it as well.
Illegal drug rings will add a small amount of fentanyl to drugs to increase the “high” or pleasurable feeling, says the DEA. They are now even adding it to marijuana.
“As a reminder, with so many college students returning home for the holidays, this is the perfect time for parents to have a conversation with their children and remind them that one pill can kill,” said DEA New Jersey Division Special Agent in Charge Susan Gibson.
The United States recorded the most overdoses death ever in 2020 (more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths), but New Jersey was an outlier: Overdose numbers actually dropped in New Jersey last year. So far for 2021, New Jersey has recorded 2,684 drug overdose deaths.
It’s very easy for people to buy these fake pills online, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall and Xanax, says the DEA. Federal agents say that Mexican drug cartels use social media sites — including Snapchat, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and TikTok — to sell fake prescription pills to Americans.
In fact, four out of ten fake prescription pills tested by the DEA were found to contain at least two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount that is considered to be a lethal dose. Many of these fake prescription drugs are made using chemicals sourced largely from China.
Just this week, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram announced the results of a public safety surge that lasted from September 29 through Dec. 14. As part of the surge, federal agents seized more than 1,500 pounds of fentanyl and more than eight million fake prescription pills. The seizures were directly linked to at least 46 overdoses and 39 overdose deaths, say police.
At least 76 of the cases involved drug traffickers using social media sites like Snapchat, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
Federal agents say social media is anonymous and it’s incredibly easy to reach anyone in the world.
“Mexican criminal drug networks are harnessing the perfect drug trafficking tool: social media on every smartphone,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The ease with which drug dealers can operate on social media and other popular smartphone apps is fueling our nation’s unprecedented overdose epidemic.”
This year alone, DEA has seized enough fentanyl to provide a lethal dose to every American. Much of this fentanyl is in the form of fake prescription pills.
In 2021, DEA has seized a staggering 20.4 million fake prescription pills, often made in China and sold via social media to Americans.
The DEA emphasized that people should not buy counterfeit or fake prescription pills online or from social media sites.
“The only safe prescription medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional that you get from a licensed pharmacist,” said Milgram. “All other pills are unsafe and potentially deadly.”
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