The warning from the deputy attorney general of the United States was alarming: counterfeit pills marketed as Adderall or Xanax to teens often contain deadly doses of the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.
“We have an obligation to make Americans aware,” said Deputy AG Lisa Monaco at Thursday’s press conference, held at the Department of Justice. “Counterfeit pills have been identified in every state in the United States.”
They’re being marketed to teens, she added.
Last year, 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, and a whopping 75 percent of them were caused by fentanyl.
The 1.8 million counterfeit pills seized in recent weeks, laced with fentanyl, were enough to kill 700,000 Americans, the government said. The pills are being sold on social media platforms like SnapChat and even paid for with Bitcoin. The feds launched a campaign this week called One Pill Can Kill.
It only takes 2.2 mg. of fentanyl to kill someone, a portion that can fit on the tip of a pencil.
Teenagers are not the only people dying from fake pain or anti-anxiety pills laced with fentanyl or from other drugs that contain mixtures of the deadly opioid.
This month, beloved Brooklyn actor Michael K. Williams succumbed to a drug overdose of heroin and cocaine that were mixed with fentanyl.
And on Sept. 5, comic Kate Quigley survived a group overdose at her house party in Los Angeles that killed her friend and fellow comedian, Fuquan Johnson, along with two others. The four had overdosed on cocaine that was laced with fentanyl.
In 2018, superstar Mac Miller fatally overdosed after taking counterfeit pills that contained a lethal dose of fentanyl. A year later, several suppliers were indicted in connection with his death.
Fentanyl is cheap to produce and it’s manufactured in China, then often shipped to drug labs in Mexico, where the counterfeit pills “are being mass-produced by criminal networks,” said Anne Milgram, the new administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Milgram said the amount of pills flooding every corner in America has become a “national emergency.”
This year alone, 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized. In recent weeks, the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 810 people for trafficking the pills.
The situation is so bad that DEA officials just asked the Mexican Attorney General to allow U.S. law enforcement to work south of the border to assist with efforts that would stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States.
Fentanyl seizures have become very common in the Northeast, according to Jimmy Arroyo, the newly-installed Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New York division.
“We’ve seen a lot in the Bronx, there have been seizures in Queens, up in Yonkers,” Arroyo told PIX11 News.
Many of the machines that press the pills can be found in basement boiler rooms or unassuming apartments in residential buildings.
Arroyo said the risk associated with counterfeit pills is far greater than a knock-off handbag.
“It’s like, when you buy a fake Gucci bag, you can have buyer’s remorse. If you buy a fake Rolex, you can have buyer’s remorse,” Arroyo said. “You buy one of these pills, you’re not going to have buyer’s remorse. You’re going to be dead.”