Between the second half of 2019 and the end of 2021, the number of overdose fatalities that included evidence of the usage of counterfeit pills increased by more than twice as much. According to the latest data, around 5% of those who died from a drug overdose in the last few months of 2021 had signs of using fake pills.
The CDC researchers discovered that illegally produced fentanyl was responsible for virtually all overdose fatalities where there was evidence of the use of fake tablets, including more than two out of every five deaths when it was the only factor. In almost a quarter of fatalities using fake drugs, methamphetamine was found; in more than one in eight deaths, cocaine and benzodiazepines were found.
Many of these medications are created by gangs and illegal drug distribution networks to resemble stimulants used to treat ADHD or prescription opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone.
The latest CDC data states that almost three-quarters of the fake pills implicated in drug overdose fatalities were designed to resemble oxycodone.
According to the DEA, Mexico is where the great bulk of fake medications that are imported into the US are made.
According to the survey, exposure to various kinds of fake medicines and medications may differ by area. However, research indicates that fentanyl-laced counterfeit tablets are “infiltrating drug markets in western US states.”
Western states continually had the highest rate of overdose fatalities utilizing fake pills, and in recent years, this rate has increased faster than normal, doubling from around 5% in mid-2019 to over 15% towards the end of 2021.
It was also shown that those of Hispanic descent and those under 35 were more at risk.
Experts advise consumers to only take prescription medications that have been prescribed for them and are obtained directly from a pharmacy or another healthcare professional in order to prevent overdosing.
According to the researchers, having access to fentanyl test strips and other drug-checking goods and services may assist determine the contents of tablets and promote the adoption of harm reduction techniques like having naloxone on hand.