DEA warns of increase in fake prescription pills laced with Fentanyl

The DEA seized 1.8 million fentanyl-laced pills disguised as prescriptions like Adderall,...
The DEA seized 1.8 million fentanyl-laced pills disguised as prescriptions like Adderall, Xanax, and Oxycontin.(Rattanakun // Canva)
Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The DEA issued a rare public safety alert, warning people about the “alarming increase” in fake prescription, fentanyl-laced pills flooding the country.

Agents said Mexican criminal drug networks are mass-producing the pills using chemicals from China and are disguising them to look like prescriptions such as Adderall, Xanax, and Oxycontin.

In August and September, the DEA began targeting criminal drug networks making and selling the fentanyl-laced pills, seizing 1.8 million of them, enough to kill more than 700,000 Americans. Nearly 6,00 of the pills were found in the Louisville area.

According to DEA testing, the pills are more lethal and easier to find than ever. Four out of every 10 fentanyl-laced pills could contain a deadly dose. Criminal drug networks are selling them through social media, the dark web, e-commerce and existing drug chains.

“The drug dealer is not sitting down the street from you, it is sitting in your home,” Anne Milgram, a DEA administrator, said. “It is sitting on the phone with your child in their bedroom, it is sitting on your couch; anyone can have access.”

Years ago, before Brendan Daugherty entered recovery, he bought some of these pills thinking they were Xanax.

“It turned out to be pressed fentanyl,” Daugherty said. “I couldn’t tell the difference between it, because I was just looking for something to change how I felt so I took them anyways.”

Daugherty, who has been in and out of recovery for the past 10 years, and is now a peer mentor at the Healing Place, said he has has watched many of his friends die from fentanyl overdoses. He said he isn’t surprised the laced pills are on the rise.

“If you are looking for it on the streets, buying it illegally, then you’re never going to know what’s in that pill or anything, because that’s been my experience,” he said. “Anybody could put anything in anything and sell it. And I’ve realized that if a doctor isn’t prescribing it, there’s a real good chance it’s counterfeit.”

During the two-month law enforcement surge targeting fake pills, the DEA also seized 712 kilograms of fentanyl powder, 158 weapons, 4,011 kilograms of methamphetamine and 653 kilograms of cocaine.

The Louisville division arrested 40 people on drug and weapon-related charges during the two-month operation.

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