Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning about the sharp increase in counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. The number of DEA-seized fake pills containing fentanyl has grown about 430% since 2019.1
Domestic and international criminal drug networks are manufacturing and selling pills that resemble popular prescription drugs of abuse, such as oxycodone—the catch is that they often contain meth and fentanyl, an extremely potent and deadly opioid that can lead to overdose.
Fake Pills Sold on the Street & Through Social Media
Drug rings are mass-producing fake pills containing fentanyl and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription drugs. They do this because fentanyl is much cheaper than the drugs they’re intended to imitate. These fake prescription pills are easily obtainable, widely accessible, and are frequently deadly. Many unsuspecting users buy these drugs thinking they are something else and wind up overdosing on fentanyl.
It’s never safe to use pills that weren’t purchased at a pharmacy. Actual prescription pills are regulated so that you know exactly what’s in them, and you receive counsel by a pharmacist as to potential side effects. Conversely, you can’t know what’s in fake pills just by looking at them, even if they look exactly like the real thing.
Some common fake prescription pills containing fentanyl include:
The DEA and law enforcement have seized over 9.5 million counterfeit pills this year, which is more than the previous two years combined. Most of these fake prescription pills have at least 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is a potentially fatal dose. About 40% of fake pills with fentanyl have a lethal dose of this powerful opioid. Further, these counterfeit pills are also being cut with methamphetamine.
Dealers are Targeting Kids & Teens on Social Media
While social media has helped revolutionize the way we communicate and connect with one another, it also has a darker side. The DEA has warned that drug dealers are marketing their counterfeit pills on social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram, which means they are targeting teenagers and young adults.2 They sell these fentanyl-containing pills through the app then deliver them to kids locally. Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy for them to sell counterfeit drugs this way without drawing too much attention to themselves, and many young people are happy to buy their drugs online.
How to Know if Your Drugs Contain Fentanyl
No matter what anyone says, you can’t tell if your drugs are legitimate or not just by looking at them. Some counterfeit pills are so convincing that it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the real and fake pill. Dealers and manufacturers are pressing pills in the likeness of the legitimate prescriptions, using the same color and markings.
The only safe way to know if your drugs contain fentanyl is to test them using a fentanyl test strip. These strips are affordable, easy to use, and give you your results within a couple of minutes. You can buy them on popular online sites like Amazon and then keep them on you whenever you plan to use drugs, especially those claiming to be prescriptions like OxyContin.
If your street drugs test positive for fentanyl, discard them safely so no one else can get ahold of them. If you still plan to use the drugs, make sure you go extremely slow and have a friend there with you.
Another way to keep safe and possibly save your life or someone else’s is to buy and carry naloxone (Narcan). Narcan is an opioid overdose medication that rapidly reverses the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose and restores breathing.
Finding Treatment for Addiction
Another way to keep yourself safe and prevent a potential overdose is to attend an addiction treatment program. Choosing to attend rehab is never an easy decision, but it’s always worth it. At treatment, you can receive the individualized treatment you need to quit using drugs and avoid relapse in the long run. Call our confidential helpline at 1-800-429-7690 for help finding a drug rehab near you.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021, September 27). Sharp Increase in Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021, July 23). DEA Washington Warns of Deadly Counterfeit Drugs on Social Media.