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LACOMBE, LA – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and law enforcement agencies across the country are finding fake deadly pills at record rates.
“This is probably the most dangerous time for a teenager here in America,” said Dr. Charles Preston, coroner for St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
Last week, in unrelated incidents, two young people from Dr Preston’s community died the same night after taking what they believed to be Percocets. In one case, a 21-year-old took a pill and it killed him.
Although official toxicology results can take up to six weeks, Dr Preston believes the pill was likely laced with fentanyl. He fears that these types of pills will affect his community.
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“When I see this phenomenon of a pill that kills, it’s a super red flag that we’re dealing with counterfeit drugs,” Preston said.
Preston said at first he saw fentanyl mixed into heroin, but now he sees it more often squeezed into pills that appear to be Adderall, Xanax or Percocet.
“Teenagers think they’re getting a drug for a party and sadly that may be the last thing they’ll ever do,” Preston said.
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Public health group, The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM), is tracking deaths linked to fake pills across the country.
Executive director Shabbir Safdar says more and more dealers are selling their supply on social media.
“Drug traffickers have found social media both as an anonymous way to advertise their wares and also as an easy way to reach a younger audience that you wouldn’t normally find interacting with drug traffickers. drugs,” Safdar said.
Safdar says teenagers as young as 13 are buying pills on social media.
“The dealers go where the money is and there are kids with the money,” Safdar said. “It doesn’t take more than $20, $25 to buy some of these fake pills and a lot of kids can pull that together.”
According to data from PSM, fake pill deaths have been linked to social media in at least 22 states.
Safdar says more parents need to make sure their kids know they can’t trust anyone selling online.
“Teenagers don’t understand that just because they look like a real pill doesn’t mean they’re a real pill,” Safdar said. “Usually these pills don’t contain any active ingredients. It’s just filler powder and fentanyl.”
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In 2021, the DEA seized over 20 million fake pills in the United States. The agency warns that any pill purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy is illegal and potentially fatal.
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The DEA says many of these drugs come from criminal drug labs in Mexico.