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DEA issues warning about fake pills and starts campaign to stop it

Agents seized 6 million pills in Arizona
Posted at 10:19 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 03:11:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is sounding the alarm on a spike in counterfeit medications containing fentanyl and meth.

DEA officials say fake pills continue to be sold on the streets and internet adding that the number of pills available is in the millions. Unfortunately, for some users taking just one pill laced with fentanyl can take your life.

DEA Special Agent Polo Ruiz says out of the nine million fake pills seized in the United States from September 2020 until now, six million were found here in Arizona.

"This is the biggest threat right now that’s going on. Here on the 360 miles of border that's what we’re dealing with we have at least 5 or 6 ports of entry. They put them on their person, they put them on their vehicles and they’re also using clandestine areas,” Ruiz said.

The influx of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl is prompting the DEA to issue a warning and launch a new campaign called “One Pill Can Kill”.

The pills have unknown amounts of fentanyl and meth making use even more deadly. Meanwhile, users are going to social media to set-up deals with sellers. Southern Arizona has become a major gateway for drug traffickers.

“Over the last year they identified that two out of five pills has a lethal dose. A lethal dose is between two milligrams and 3 milligrams of fentanyl. If you were to take out a sugar packet or a grain of salt and you put it on the table and look at one granule that’s what they mix into the fentanyl pill,” Ruiz said.

Officials say black market pills are being mass produced and passed off as legit leaving thousands of unsuspecting users dead. Adding to that fact, according to the CDC says more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020.

"The Pima County Sheriff's, Tucson PD, Marana PD, Oro Valley we all together in unison to interdict these pills from getting into our community,” Ruiz said.

Most of the pills are made in Mexico and China is known to supply the chemical to make fentanyl.

"Back in the 80s we saw the crack epidemic, then from the 90s to the millennium they started with meth labs. Now, we’re getting into the fentanyl epidemic, you just don’t know if that one pill is going to kill,” Ruiz said.