DEA issues warning on increase in overdose deaths linked to counterfeit pills


FILE – This photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence in a 2019 trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. In a resumption of a brutal trend, nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new record high that predates the COVID-19 crisis. The numbers were driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP)

NEW ORLEANS, La (KLFY) — The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning over the weekend to bring awareness of overdose deaths tied to counterfeit pills.

Counterfeit pills are often manufactured by Mexican drug trafficking (DTOs) and marketed as medications such as oxycodone on the illicit drug market, and they can be deadly.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine.  DEA lab analysis has identified pills ranging from .02 milligrams to 5.1 milligrams of fentanyl per tablet, with 26% of the counterfeit pills tested containing a lethal dose of fentanyl.  A deadly dose of fentanyl can be as little as 2 milligrams. 

Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New Orleans Field Division, made a statement on the dangers of counterfeit medicines.

Counterfeit pills are extremely dangerous, as they often contain toxic or illicit ingredients such as fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of an overdose. Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are pushing these deadly substances into the illicit drug market to expand their business among the already increasing opioid-addicted population.  Manufacturing these pills using deadly substances like fentanyl is a reflection of the evil by which these drug traffickers operate for their profit.  Americans are dying across the country and here in Louisiana.  To anyone going outside the healthcare system to obtain otherwise legitimate medications, I would say this:  Don’t do it. You can never be certain of what you’re getting and you’re playing Russian roulette with your life.

The DEA is urging the public to get prescription drugs only from state-licensed pharmacies located in the United States, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state authorities can assure the quality of drug manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and labeling.

DEA also continues working with all their federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to examine all available reporting details surrounding overdose deaths and pursue any investigative leads to determine the origin of counterfeit pills and their current prevalence across the state.

DEA urges the community to share information concerning the availability of any synthetic opioids as they surface within local drug markets with your local law enforcement agency.  The DEA will continue to notify the public of any drug threats as they emerge.

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at and

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