DEA warns about spike in counterfeit pills, deadly consequences

The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning parents and kids about a recent spike in illegal counterfeit pills and the deadly consequences.

So far this year, the DEA has confiscated over 9.5 million counterfeit pills, more than twice the numbers for the two previous years combined. From drugs, such as oxycodone to hydrocodone, counterfeit pills are flooding the market, and many are laced with the fatal substance fentanyl.

Jarod Forget, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Washington division, said a large majority of the overdose deaths in the country are due to counterfeit pills.

Last year, there were over 93,000 fatal overdoses across the U.S. The pills, manufactured in Mexico and sold online and through popular apps such as Snapchat, are impossible to identify as fake without testing and often prove fatal.

“We’re seeing these pills that appear to be legitimate, and we can’t tell the difference. Two out of every five pills seized had a deadly amount of fentanyl,” Forget said.



Lab analyses reveal that 40% of counterfeit pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose, or 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.

“It’s sort of like playing Russian roulette,” Forget said.

In the D.C. region alone, Forget said 2020 brought historic numbers of overdoses and those numbers have continued to rise.

He’s urging parents to talk to family and friends about the threat and to take the necessary precautions to ensure any drug taken is done so legally and under medical supervision.

“I talk to my kids as a father about the threat of any pill. Don’t take pills from your friends or pills that aren’t from a parent or a doctor,” Forget said.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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