Science

DEA says fake pills containing fentanyl are helping overdose deaths — and some are designed to look like candy

Federal officials said Tuesday that a growing number of counterfeit prescription pills that contain the potentially deadly fentanyl are helping drive death rates to record levels in the US, including some now iridescent designed to look like candy. Manufactured in colours.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Drug Enforcement Administration agents are working to crack down on violent drug cartels in Mexico that are believed to have been smuggling drugs into the US. He said that between May and September, the DEA and local police across the country confiscated more than 10 million fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of powder.

Highly Powerful Synthetic Drugs Like Fentanyl Are Behind Record overdose deaths Law enforcement officers in the US are struggling to combat the drug surge in urban and rural communities across the country. The global coronavirus pandemic has overshadowed the US opioid epidemic, but it returned to public consciousness when the number of overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 during the 12-month period ending April 2021.

“I read a lot of reports on a lot of cases, including a lot of young people who died after taking just one pill with fentanyl, often disguised as something else,” Garland said.

First reported in February, rainbow pills have now been confiscated in 21 states, said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. While fentanyl is still commonly disguised as oxycodone or another prescription drug, rainbow pills are on the rise.

“We believe it’s being marketed and aimed at young people,” Milgram said.

DEA warns
An image of what became known as “rainbow fentanyl” pills.

Drug Enforcement Administration


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.Y., also sounded the alarm this weekend about the drug’s rise in New York City and Long Island as he pushed for new funding to fight its spread.

Federal officials said two Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the majority of fentanyl in the US. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel buy precursor chemicals from China, then ship them to the US, where they are sometimes sold on social media platforms.

“Those cartels are operating with calculated, deliberate treachery to get fentanyl into the United States and get people to buy it through counterfeit pills, hiding it in other drugs, in any way they can to drive the addiction. and can take to make money,” Milgram told “CBS Mornings” this month.

The Justice Department considers the Jalisco Cartel “one of the five most dangerous international criminal organizations in the world”. The leader of the cartel, Nemesio Oseguera, “Menche,“One of the most sought after by Mexican and American officials.

In the past four months, authorities have investigated nearly 400 cases, 51 of which are linked to overdoses and 35 directly linked to the two cartels. Milgram said that in addition to being suppressed in counterfeit pills, fentanyl powder is also transported in other drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

“Our top operational priority has been and will continue to be to defeat these two cartels,” she said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and even small amounts can be fatal. Counterfeit prescription pills are especially dangerous because it’s hard to tell how strong they are.

About two-thirds of overdose deaths in the US have been linked to fentanyl or other potent, illegally made synthetic opioids.

Jonathan Colkins, a professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said containing synthetics is a challenge with law enforcement because the drug can be made in laboratories anywhere, rather than being grown in areas like cocaine or heroin – and because it is very is powerful and is smuggled in small quantities.

“How is law enforcement supposed to find a few metric tons in an economy that trades megatons of raw materials?” Caulkins asked.

Colkins said the best way to deal with the fentanyl crisis is to fund treatment and increase the availability of naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses — but added that arrests are being used to reduce supplies. Might be worth trying.

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