National News

Wake mother echoes DEA warning against deadly, fake prescription pills

Posted September 27, 2021 12:05 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2021 7:06 p.m. EDT

— More Americans are dying after using fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, more international and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, "killing unsuspecting Americans."

The DEA is warning against purchasing pills from anywhere but a licensed pharmacy.

"These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase and widely available," the DEA said in a statement. "This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists."

Wendy Thomas, whose son died last year of a fentanyl overdose after taking what he thought was a Percocet pill, agreed that people need to beware when taking prescription pills.

“People are dying. Kids are dying. Families are being devastated, and it’s not stopping. It’s getting worse,” Thomas said.

Matthew Thomas, 20, was one of three Apex High School graduates to die of fentanyl poisoning in a three-month period in 2020.

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, and the DEA said 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill. It’s that deadly dose that's being pressed into pills being sold on social media.

“The drug dealer is not sitting down the street from you," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. "It is sitting in your home. It is sitting on the phone of your child, sitting in their bedroom, sitting on the couch. Anyone can have access.”

The counterfeit pills are made to look like popular prescription brands, including painkillers Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, anxiety medication Xanax and attention-deficit drug Adderall.

"Because there is no dosage and quality control, you truly are taking your life in your hands when you take that one pill. You don’t what’s in it," said Matthew O’Brien, the DEA assistant special agent in charge in North Carolina.

According to the DEA, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far in 2021, which is more than the last two years combined.

"The number of DEA-seized counterfeit pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019, a staggering increase," the agency said in a statement. "Today, two out of every five pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose."

A record 93,000 drug overdoses were reported in the U.S. last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It’s killing our youth. It’s killing our communities," Thomas said.

She has launched a nonprofit, Matthew’s Voice, to help raise awareness about the problem. She said she hopes that shining a light on the consequences will get parents and children talking more openly about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

“I hope that, if the chance ever comes up where they are offered a pill, they are going to remember, and they are going to say no,” she said.

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