Counterfeit painkillers masked as prescription opioids are increasingly cropping up as a culprit in overdose deaths, according to a recent warning from Iowa’s law enforcement.
The fake prescription pills are often mixed with potentially fatal synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is a painkiller roughly 30 to 50 times more powerful than pure heroin. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa issued an advisory Thursday due to the increased threat a recent influx of counterfeit pills poses to residents, The Gazette reported.
Their advice to residents is to stay away from any pills not directly prescribed by a doctor. Officials want to raise awareness of the issue, so unsuspecting users are not deceived into taking a deadly pill.
“The opioid epidemic lowered American life expectancy in 2015 and 2016 for the first time in decades,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. said, according to The Gazette. “Heroin and prescription opioid abuse has taken a devastating toll on our community. But we have also seen a rise in the prevalence of counterfeit prescription pills being sold on the internet and on the street.”
Fentanyl continues to pour 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, recently 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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