In 2020, fentanyl was involved in 51 percent of deadly overdoses in Los Angeles County. In the digital era, getting ahold of illicit drugs can be as simple as ordering groceries or a pizza online. Apps have paved the way for drug dealers to sell discreetly to users in their areas. As a result, the Los Angeles DEA is now fighting a surge in online counterfeit pill sales that has caused deadly overdoses.

Counterfeit Pill Sales On The Rise

According to the DEA, the proliferation of counterfeit pills marked as Oxycodone or Xanax is evident in the many drugs seized across the country. They say that illicit drug networks mass-produce fake pills, which are sold online through apps like WhatsApp and even social media. However, the truth is that these counterfeit pills rarely contain a pure drug. Instead, they are often tainted with fentanyl, a deadly drug that can be up to 100 times as dangerous as Morphine and is now the leading cause of overdoses in the United States.

The DEA says that counterfeit pills like these are widely available and that law enforcement is coming across the sale of these pills at record rates.

Counterfeit Pills Leading Cause Of Opioid Overdoses

Most counterfeit pills are obtained online or via street connections. Most of these pills are sent to state crime labs, where they test them for illicit substances and measure their purity.

The DEA says that when they counterfeit pills they’ve seized, lab testing reveals that two out of every five counterfeit pills they’ve seized contains a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. This includes pills that are not represented as opioids.

Harm Reduction To Combat Addiction Epidemic

The only safe pills are ones prescribed by a medical doctor. Unfortunately, some people who use drugs recreationally aren’t able to stop using them on their own. Until they are ready to quit using, harm reduction techniques may save their lives from overdose.

Communities often use harm reduction tools to help prevent overdoses. For example, nonprofits usually hand out clean needles, fentanyl testing strips, naloxone, and the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to substance users. Helping reduce the risk of serious harm or death can help people with a substance use disorder stay alive until they’re ready to get the help they need.