DEA Washington Chief Issues Public Safety Alert: Dangerous Increase in Fake Rx Pills Containing Fentanyl
DEA Warns that Criminal Drug Networks are Flooding the Area with Lethal Counterfeit Pills
Washington, D.C. – Today, Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division issued a Public Safety Alert warning Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. residents of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl in our area. This DEA Public Safety Alert seeks to raise public awareness of a significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills being mass-produced by criminal drug networks, deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting residents at an unprecedented rate.
These counterfeit pills have been seized in unprecedented quantities and have been causing deadly overdoses across the tri-state area. More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized so far this year (more than the last two years, combined).
The DEA Washington is seeing counterfeit pills illegally manufactured by Mexican drug cartels and made to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®). These counterfeit pills are being so well made they aren’t able to be told apart from legitimate pills, outside testing.
DEA lab analyses reveal that 40% of counterfeit pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose (at least two milligrams of fentanyl). A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.
These counterfeit pills are now widely accessible across the local area and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms and marketed to minors and young adults.
“These cartels are marketing to our children and young adults in our area. They are causing fatal overdose deaths in unwitting victims across our area, from every background and every lifestyle,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jarod Forget. “Only one life lost to this horrible danger is too many. Only ONE pill from illegitimate sources can kill, and has. And we’re dedicated to educating the public on this issue, to help keep our area residents and families safe.”
The vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico. SAC Forget is focusing resources and working with area partners on taking down these violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of all area residents.
Today, the DEA Washington Division is alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.
The drug overdose crisis in the United States is a serious public safety threat with rates currently reaching the highest level in history. Drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the United States, bringing overdose deaths and violence to American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths. Drug poisonings involving methamphetamine, increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, also continue to rise as illegal pills containing methamphetamine become more widespread.
Drug trafficking is also inextricably linked to violence. This year alone, the DEA seized more than 2,700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations – a 30 percent increase since 2019. The DEA remains steadfast in its mission to protect our communities, enforce U.S. drug laws, and bring to justice the foreign and domestic criminals sourcing, producing, and distributing illicit drugs, including counterfeit pills.
This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. The legitimate prescription supply chain is not impacted. Anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.
The issuance of today’s Public Safety Alert coincides with the launch of DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate the public of the dangers of counterfeit pills. DEA urges all Americans to be vigilant and aware of the dangers of counterfeit pills, and to take only medications prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. For more information, visit https://www.dea.gov/onepill or scan the QR code below.