Fake Fentanyl Pills Help Drive Overdose Deaths — And Some Are Designed to Look Like Candy, DEA Says

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A growing number of fake prescription pills that contain potentially deadly fentanyl are helping drive overdose deaths to record levels in the U.S., including some that are now manufactured in rainbow colors 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 drugs into the U.S., Attorney General Merrick Garland said. Between May and September, the DEA and local police seized more than 10 million fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of the powder across the country, he said.

Extremely powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl are behind us record number of overdose deaths in the US, law enforcement officials across the country are struggling to combat the rise of drugs in urban and rural communities. The global coronavirus pandemic overshadowed America’s opioid epidemic, but as the number of overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in April 2021 surpassed 100,000, it rocketed back into the public spotlight.

“I’ve read too many reports of too many cases, including too many young people who ended up dying after taking a single fentanyl 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 increasingly disguised as oxycodone or another prescription drug, rainbow pills are on the rise.

“We believe it’s being marketed and aimed at young people,” Milgram said.

The DEA is warning
An image of what are known as “rainbow fentanyl” pills.

Drug Enforcement Administration


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also sounded the alarm this weekend about the rise of the drug in New York and Long Island as he pushed for new funding to fight its spread.

Two Mexican drug cartels are responsible for most of the fentanyl in the U.S., federal authorities said. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel purchase precursor chemicals from China and then transport them to the US, where they are sometimes sold on social media platforms.

“These cartels operate with deliberate, deliberate treachery to get fentanyl into the United States and get people to buy it through fake pills, by hiding it in other drugs, by whatever means they can use to encourage addiction and make money. “, Milgram he told “CBS Mornings” this month.

Department of Justice he thinks the Jalisco cartel to be “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world”. The leader of the cartel, Nemesio Oseguera, “El Mencho,” are among the most sought-after Mexican and American authorities.

Over the past four months, authorities have investigated nearly 400 cases, of which 51 were linked to overdoses and 35 were directly related to both cartels. In addition to being pressed into fake pills, fentanyl powder also passes into other drugs such as cocaine and heroin, Milgram said.

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

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times stronger than heroin, and even a small amount can be fatal. Counterfeit prescription pills are especially dangerous because it’s hard to tell how strong they are.

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

Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said the use of synthetics by law enforcement is a challenge because the drug can be made in labs anywhere rather than grown in fields like cocaine or heroin — and because it is so powerful . and is traded in smaller quantities.

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

Caulkins said the best way to deal with the fentanyl crisis is to put money toward treatment and increase the availability of naloxone, the drug that reverses an overdose — but he added that using arrests to reduce supply may be worth a shot.

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