NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's a dangerous flood of fake prescription pills making their way into unsuspecting hands that could be deadly.
Because of a serious spike being seen this year, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration is issuing a public safety alert. It's the first alert of its kind to be issued in six years.
The pills are ones mass produced in labs illegally, then marketed to look like real prescription drugs. The black market pills often contain dangerous drugs like fentanyl and meth.
The DEA said more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized this year, more than the last two years combined.
Authorities said these drugs are produced by gangs and criminal drug networks.
They're made to look like prescription opioid drugs, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or even stimulants like Adderall.
This alert comes at a time when the CDC has reported a record number of drug overdose deaths. In 2020, over 93,000 overdose deaths were reported, much of it related to illicit and synthetic opioids.
"Unbeknownst to the people receiving them, they think they're just receiving Percocet or oxycontin, but to boost up these pills... drug dealers are surreptitiously putting in fentanyl," said former DEA agent Calvin Higgins.
"It's easier for them to get their one pill processing plant, stamp out the pills as fake but still put the name and label on there so they appear to be real."
These pills are widely available online and often sold through social media.
Because of their accessibility, the DEA want people to understand the risks and dangers involved.