This post: DEA Issues Desperate Warning: Online Purchased Pills Laced with Fentanyl – One Pill CAN Kill
Written by: Marybeth Bock
“I want parents to know that no matter how good you think your kids are, this can happen to them,” said Tammy Lyon-Gordon, mother of two teenagers, Tyler (18) and Jenna (16), who lost their lives as a result of taking fake prescription pills laced with Fentanyl.
“They were always looking out for each other – they were tight. Sometimes, I feel that I just run out of tears,” she said.
Tyler and Jenna weren’t drug dealers, and they weren’t drug addicts. They weren’t hanging out on a street corner late at night, skipping school or overly rebellious in nature. They were average teenagers – smart, talented kids who came from a good home with a bright future ahead of them. Teenagers who became curious. Teenagers who thought they’d give something a try. Teenagers who didn’t realize the danger. Teenagers who thought, “that will never happen to me.”
DEA Issues Desperate Warning: Online Purchased Pills Laced with Fentanyl – One Pill CAN Kill
A Parent’s Worst Fear
It’s a fear every parent of teenagers has – our kids being exposed to, experimenting with or becoming addicted to a dangerous, potentially lethal drug. But in today’s world of black-market drugs that are cleverly packaged and sold to look like authentic, doctor-prescribed medicine, even our endless lectures about the danger associated with both illegal drugs and the misuse of prescription medication, and our kids’ schools bolstering education efforts, may not be enough to save our kids.
The easy access to pills via smartphone apps is a frightening wake-up call for parents of every teen, regardless of how “good” their child is, their age, where they live, whether they’ve never tried a drug in their life or who they hang out with.
The Facts About Fake Prescription Pills Laced with Fentanyl
This week, for the first time in six years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert about a dramatic increase in fake prescription drugs being sold on the black market containing a potentially lethal dose of Fentanyl. According to the DEA, one in four counterfeit pills made with Fentanyl contains a lethal dose. Two milligrams is considered a potentially lethal dose.
The counterfeit pills are being illegally produced to mirror the look of doctor-prescribed medications such as opioids like Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet; the anti-anxiety drug Xanax; or the stimulant Adderall, commonly prescribed for ADHD.
Fentanyl: 50 Times More Potent Than Heroin
Fentanyl is a human-made opioid used to treat severe pain. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as a pain killer. The drug interacts with receptors in the brain to create feelings of pain relief, relaxation, contentment, and pleasure.
A doctor might prescribe Fentanyl to someone with severe pain due to cancer, nerve damage, serious injury, or major surgery.
As a country, we’ve seen tighter restrictions placed on prescription opioids over the last few years due to the increase in drug overdose deaths. Instead of reducing overall overdose deaths, the deaths have shifted to illicitly manufactured opioid and methamphetamine deaths and have continued to increase (more than 30% last year to over 93,000 deaths in 2020). The bottom line is, one pill can kill.
Cleverly Packaged to Look Like Authentic Prescription Medicine
What’s particularly concerning for teenagers and young college students is that it’s not uncommon for them to share a pill with a friend or roommate. If they want to perform better on a test, Adderall can do the trick. If they’re stressed out from school, homework or studying, Xanax can help take the edge off.
The pills, including Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax, and Adderall, look like genuine doctor-prescribed pills, so kids don’t give it a second thought. They’re under the impression that these pills are being shipped by a legitimate source so they must be safe.
But the frightening reality is that these fake medications are more lethal than ever before.
The DEA has already seized more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills in 2021, more than the last two years combined, and the overall number of seized pills has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured Fentanyl and Methamphetamine,” DEA Administrator, Anne Milligram said. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and accessible than ever before.”
Purchasing Drugs Through Social Media Apps is “As Easy as Ordering a Pizza”
The fact is, it’s easier than ever for kids to get their hands on these counterfeit pills.
Anne Milgram, told the Washington Post, many of the dangerous and potentially counterfeit pills are being sold on social media sites such as Snapchat and TikTok and thus far, social media sites aren’t doing much to deal with the risk of young users.
Marc Berkman, chief executive of the Organization for Social Media Safety, says the nonprofit ran an informal test and discovered that they were able to connect with drug dealers on multiple social media sites in less than three minutes.
Purchasing drugs through social media apps is “as easy as ordering a pizza,” Berkman said. What makes it difficult for companies, law enforcement, and parents to contend with is that many of the drug deals are taking place across different platforms. Online buyers may be connecting with a drug dealer on one site, then be messaging with them on a second site, and will end up purchasing the pills on a third site.
For years now, illegal drugs have been readily available on social media apps. And, although social media companies continually claim they’re working on addressing the problem by employing more moderators and using newer technology to spot illegal posts with keyword searches related to drugs, both prescription and illegal drugs are still easily accessible for anyone interested in getting their hands on them, regardless of their age.
Why Are Teens Intrigued with Ordering Pills Online?
Dr. Talia Puzantian, PharmD, professor of Clinical Sciences for Keck Graduate Institute’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and a mother of two teenage boys claims that the sharp rise in overdose deaths is likely attributed to cost and access.
“Younger people are getting their hands on these counterfeit pills because they are cheaper than ever before – prices have dropped by more than 50% over the past 2 years. And we’ve seen an increase in ads on social media targeting kids and teens especially. Young people find pills more appealing in that they are more socially acceptable, easier to hide than meth or heroin, and they don’t leave a smell behind like cigarettes, cannabis or alcohol.”
What Steps Can Parents Take to Prevent Their Teen from Accessing Fake Prescription Medication?
Dr. Puzantian reminds parents to “have open discussions with kids starting at a young age to raise awareness and to keep talking as they grow older so that they can make better decisions for themselves.”
“Let kids know that pills obtained outside the usual cycle of doctor/pharmacy are often not the real deal, that there’s no quality control and since they won’t know what they are getting when they buy online, on the street, or from friends, the best way to prevent an overdose is to avoid any pills which are not prescribed specifically for them.”
Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. They need to know they can come to you with any feeling or problem. Check in on them. Ask questions. Get to know their friends. Stay involved and engaged in their life. If/when a teen is struggling internally with little emotional support from his/her parents, it’s all too easy for them to ease their emotional pain through inexpensive online prescription pills via an app on their phone. As parents, it’s important to tell your kids, it only takes once. One pill can kill.
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DEA PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT: Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth: One Pill Can Kill
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.