Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid that is lethal in minute doses, for distribution throughout North America, according to the DEA.
Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide between January and March 2019, DEA found that 27 percent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
“Capitalizing on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse in the United States, drug trafficking organizations are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year.”
Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids remain the primary driver behind the ongoing opioid crisis, with fentanyl involved in more deaths than any other illicit drug.
“The pills pictured here are made to look identical to pharmaceutical oxycodone tablets, but present an increased danger due to the potency of fentanyl,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Philadelphia Field Division. “These counterfeit pills are an example of the evolving nature of the fentanyl threat in the region.”
A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary based on an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors, t he DEA said. The full Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program Report on the recent drug sampling and testing is available online.