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6 in 10 seized fentanyl-laced pills now contain potentially lethal dose, DEA says

Opioid Crisis Fentanyl
Posted at 12:43 PM, Nov 21, 2022

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warns of "a sharp nationwide increase in the lethality of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills" in a news release on Monday.

Six out of every 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed by the DEA now contain a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl, the agency said. That's an increase from 2021, when four out of every 10 pills analyzed by the DEA contained a potentially lethal dose of the drug, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine.

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Warnings from the DEA and health officials have grown more urgent over time as fentanyl becomes more pervasive. Drugs sold on the street as opioids are, more and more frequently, laced with fentanyl, they say. It's now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 45.

"Never take a pill that wasn't prescribed to you. Never take a pill from a friend. Never take a pill bought on social media," said DEA administrator Anne Milgram. "Just one pill is dangerous and one pill can kill."

In 2021, 107,622 Americans died from drug poisoning, and 66% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Just two milligrams of fentanyl, enough to fit on the tip of a pencil," is considered a potentially deadly dose, according to the DEA.

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More than 20.4 million fake prescription pills were seized by the DEA in 2021. The DEA says the majority of fentanyl-laced pills sold in America are produced by two Mexican drug cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco (CJNG) Cartel, and made to look "identical" to real prescription medications like OxyContin, Percocet and Xanax.

"The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, using chemicals largely sourced from China, are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States," officials said.