Last year, 17-year-old Zach Didier of Rocklin, California, died when he took what he thought was a prescription pain pill he purchased from someone he met on Snapchat. The pill ended up being a counterfeit with a lethal amount of the powerful opioid fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns this is not an isolated incident, NBC News reports. Earlier this month, the agency made a huge bust in Mexico, seizing 600,000 counterfeit pharmaceutical pills. The pills are made to look like real prescription drugs of various types, and they would have been sold as anything from Adderall to Percocet to Xanax, but they actually included fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
The DEA worries that traffickers who are trying to fool casual drug users into buying "prescription" drugs are going to wind up killing them. Ray Donovan, the DEA's special agent in charge in New York, showed NBC News a batch of phony oxycodone pills that look exactly like the real things.
Donovan said the chance that any so-called prescription drug purchased via social media might contain fentanyl is "very high." Fentanyl-related deaths in the U.S. hit 36,000 in 2019, the most recent year for which figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are available, but it isn't known what proportion is related to counterfeit pills. The CDC says preliminary numbers indicate that deaths from synthetic opioids have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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