The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Monday issued its first public safety alert in six years, warning of a dangerous increase in fake prescription pills that contain potentially deadly amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
From the DEA’s alert, which can be read in full here:
International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans. These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists.
Drug-overdose deaths continue to increase across much of the country. That increase is largely driven by opioids. In Minnesota, for example, the most significant rise has occurred among synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. That’s despite the fact that opioid prescribing has fallen 44% over the past decade, according to the American Medical Association — 7% alone from 2019 to 2020.
Dr. Joe Bianco, a family physician who also serves as director of Essentia Health’s opioid stewardship program, says it’s imperative to know and trust the source of your prescription drugs.
A 2015 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration examined prescription-drug use and misuse in the United States. The survey found that 12.5 million people aged 12 and older misused pain relievers over the previous year. Of them, 53.7% either purchased, stole or were given their pain relievers from a friend or relative. Nearly 5% purchased them from a drug dealer or stranger. Conversely, 34% received their pain relievers through a prescription from one doctor.
“It’s really important that people know where their prescription drugs are coming from. That person should be a trusted pharmacist or clinician,” said Dr. Bianco. “Furthermore, it’s imperative that we identify those with substance use disorder so we can support them in their struggle with this complicated disease. If we are successful, it is less likely patients will seek medications outside of our clinical care.”
Essentia Health offers numerous resources to help those who are affected by substance use disorder.