It’s a good bet that illegal drugs aren’t going to disappear anytime soon from the list of America’s most serious problems.
That was a fairly easy conclusion to draw after reading a recent News-Herald story.
Two points were highlighted in the article which showed the illicit trade is still going strong in America.
First, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a public safety alert on Sept. 27 warning of an “alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.”
The federal agency stated that the counterfeit pills have been seized by agents in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities. More than 9.5 million pills have been seized so far this year, which is more than the previous two years combined, according to the DEA.
The agency’s lab testing reveals a “dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.” A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, according to the agency.
The DEA stated the counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks and are made to look like real opioid medications like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. They are also disguised to look like other prescription medications such as Xanax and Adderall.
“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. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.
“DEA is focusing resources on taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans. Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.”
The DEA alleges that the vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico and chemical supplies to manufacture fentanyl are coming from China.
Lake County has seen counterfeit pills for a number of years. In 2019, the Lake County Crime Lab’s then-supervisor of chemistry & toxicology Doug Rohde warned of an increase after the lab processed more than 250 fake oxycodone tablets that February. Some of the pills in that particular case contained only fentanyl. Some contained fentanyl with the powerful synthetic opioid analogs.
DEA Detroit Division Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin said his office seized hundreds of thousands of fake pills this past summer alone. Martin’s office oversees DEA operations in Ohio, Michigan and Northern Kentucky
“What is particularly alarming is how these pills are often marketed and packaged as legitimate prescription medications,” Martin said in a statement. “To the naked eye, they appear to be the same pill you would get at a local pharmacy, when in fact they often contain lethal dosages of fentanyl.”
The DEA stated the only safe medications are ones prescribed by a “trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.
“Any pills that do not meet this standard are unsafe and potentially deadly,” the agency stated.
On a separate note, the story reported that in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic has continued. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated more than 93,000 people died in the U.S. from drug overdoses in 2020. That is a record high number and a 29.4 percent increase from 2019. Drug overdose deaths increased in every state in 2020 except in New Hampshire and South Dakota, according to the CDC.
These two news items remind us that illegal drugs are likely to continue posing a dangerous and deadly problem in America.
For all those people trying to reverse this trend — law-enforcement officers and agents, medical professionals, counselors and educators, to name a few examples — we applaud your efforts and urge you to keep fighting the good fight.
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