On Sept. 27 the DEA released a Public Safety Alert warning the country of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. These pills are laced, and mass produced by criminal drug networks in labs, deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills, and are killing unsuspecting people at a significantly alarming rate. In Iowa, DEA has seized approximately 15,000 counterfeit pills in 2021. This marks an increase from the roughly 4,000 pills seized in 2020. Counterfeit pills are made to look like pills including OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall.
Fake prescription pills are often sold on social media, and sometimes around college areas, making them accessible to minors and young adults having “fun.” Drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the United States, bringing overdose deaths to every part of the country. Fentanyl is the primary driver to the increase in overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. Drug poisonings using methamphetamine, increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, also continues to rise as illegal pills containing the drug have become more widespread.
Fentanyl related deaths occur in every community, and if you don’t know someone personally who has lost their life to it, you know a celebrity. Mac Miller overdosed on a combination of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol. Also in 2018, Demi Lovato almost died after overdosing on Oxycodone that had been laced with fentanyl. Prince died in 2018 after taking what he thought was Vicodin but was actually a counterfeit painkiller that was laced with fentanyl. Tom Petty’s autopsy showed that he had three different kinds of fentanyl, along with Oxycodone, Temazepam, Alprazolam, and Citalopram, in his system.
Fentanyl isn’t a problem because it’s being given out by doctors, it’s a problem because the dealers who supply heroin and off-market drugs lace everything with it, because it’s both significantly cheaper and 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. It allows suppliers to make stronger drugs for less money, and due to infuriatingly selfish and heinous drug dealers, it’s not going away. Fentanyl related deaths occur in every community, and many people I know personally have lost a friend or loved one to a counterfeit pill related death. All deaths are tragic, of course, but there is an obvious sense that fentanyl related ones could have and should have been avoided.
The DEA launched the program “One Pill Can Kill” public awareness campaign to educate people on the dangers of counterfeit pills and buying street drugs. Purchasing street drugs is dangerous on its own, but the fact that people are willingly selling these pills is severely wrong and heartless.