The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned the public Monday of an increase in black market painkillers that are laced with fentanyl or methamphetamine.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement.
“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” Milgram continued. “In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.”
The agency said the fake pills are easily available on social media platforms and e-commerce websites and are designed to look like legitimate prescription drugs. Authorities seized more than 9.5 million fake pills so far this year.
Last year, more than 93,000 people died in the U.S. due to drug overdoses, the highest level in history, the agency noted. Officials say that fentanyl “is the primary driver in this alarming increase in overdose deaths.”
A majority of the counterfeit pills are produced in Mexico, while China supplies chemicals for the manufacturing process.
“There’s no question in my mind right now there are chemicals largely coming from China to Mexico, where the cartels are mass-producing fentanyl and meth and now increasingly seeing them pressed into pills,” Milgram told The Washington Post. “Often, those pills are sold online as Oxycodone, Percocet or Adderall, but in truth the pills contain fentanyl or methamphetamine.”
Milgram told the paper the methods by which people are acquiring the fake medications has altered the distribution process.
“The drug dealer isn’t just standing on a street corner anymore,” Milgram said. “It’s sitting in a pocket on your phone.”