Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl help promote deaths from OD

WASHINGTON – Always more fake prescription pills Containing potentially deadly fentanyl are helping push overdose death rates to record highs in the US, including some that are now being made rainbow-colored and designed to look like candy, federal officials said Tuesday.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents are working to crack down on violent drug cartels in Mexico believed to be smuggling the drugs into the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland said. Between May and September, the DEA and local police across the country seized more than 10 million fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of powder, he said.

Powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl are responsible for record overdose deaths in the United States. Law enforcement officials across the country are struggling to stem the tide of drugs in urban and rural communities. The global coronavirus pandemic has overshadowed America’s opioid epidemic, but when Overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 It shot back into the public consciousness during the 12-month period ending in April 2021.

“I’ve read too many reports of too many cases, including too many young people dying after just taking a fentanyl-laced pill, often disguised as something else,” Garland said.

First reported in February, the rainbow pills have now been seized in 21 states, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. While fentanyl is still more commonly disguised as oxycodone or another prescription drug, rainbow pills are on the rise.

“We think it will be marketed and aimed at young people,” Milgram said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., also sounded the alarm about the drug’s rise in New York City and Long Island this weekend as he pushed for new means to combat its spread.

Two Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the bulk of fentanyl in the United States, federal authorities said. The new generation Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel buy precursor chemicals from China and then ship them to the United States, where they are sometimes sold on social media platforms.

Over the past four months, authorities have investigated nearly 400 cases, 51 related to drug overdoses and 35 directly linked to the two cartels. Fentanyl powder is not only being pressed into counterfeit pills, but also into other drugs like cocaine and heroin, Milgram said.

“Our top operational priority has been and will continue to be to defeat these two cartels,” she said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more potent than heroin, and even a tiny amount can be deadly. Counterfeit prescription pills are particularly dangerous because it’s difficult to tell how strong they are.

About two-thirds of overdose deaths in the US have been linked to fentanyl or other strong, illegally manufactured synthetic opioids.

Jonathan Caulkins, professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said with plastics with law enforcement is challenging because the drug can be made anywhere in labs, not grown in fields like cocaine or heroin — and because it’s so potent and traded in smaller quantities.

“How the hell are law enforcement supposed to find a few tons in an economy that trades megatons of commodities?” asked Caulkins.

Caulkins said the best way to deal with the fentanyl crisis is spend money on treatment and increasing the availability of naloxonea drug that reverses overdoses — but added that with arrests to reduce supply may be worth trying.


Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill of Cherry Hill, New Jersey contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl help promote deaths from OD

Sarah Y. Kim

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