Federal drug agents are warning about rising overdose deaths, particularly among young adults and teens, from counterfeit Xanax pills cut with the potent opioid fentanyl.
Officials say the anti-anxiety medication has increased in popularity among teens and young adults in recent years, who say Xanax is often glorified in music and on social media. Rapper Lil Peep, who often rapped about Xanax, fatally overdosed on a combination of Xanax and fentanyl before a November concert in Arizona, reports FOX 11.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration in California says there is a proliferation of counterfeit pills on the street, warning, “you take one of these pills, there’s a chance you may die.” The mother of Tosh Ackerman, a 29-year-old man from California who died from a fentanyl overdose in October after taking a counterfeit Xanax, is also speaking out to warn the community of the hidden danger.
“You cannot know what you’re putting in your mouth, just don’t do it,” Carrie Luther, Ackerman’s mother, told FOX 11. “You don’t want your friends and family to be watching you lying in a casket because you mistakenly took something, and you’re gone forever.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine which is pouring into the country across the border and through the mail from China. The substance is fueling more overdose deaths as drug dealers increasingly cut the substance into heroin, cocaine and pill supplies to maximize profits.
“Almost 100 percent of what’s being sold out there is counterfeit,” John Clark, chief security office for Pfizer, which manufactures prescription Xanax, told FOX 11. “They’re putting whatever they want into it, fentanyl, boric acid, whatever ingredients are available they’ll put into it and sell it as Xanax, if the intent is to kill kids then they’re doing a good job of it.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016. Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.
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