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Nearly 10 million pills tainted with fentanyl were seized in 2021

American law enforcement is seizing fentanyl pills at a rate nearly 50 times greater than four years ago.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Commercial Facility seized nearly $4.6 million in fentanyl and methamphetamine totaling close to 650 pounds on Saturday, January 26, 2019 from a Mexican national when he attempted to enter the United States through the Port of Nogales. Source - Customs and Border Patrol/Jerry Glaser (CC0 1.0)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Commercial Facility seized nearly $4.6 million in fentanyl and methamphetamine totaling close to 650 pounds on Saturday, January 26, 2019 from a Mexican national when he attempted to enter the United States through the Port of Nogales. Source - Customs and Border Patrol/Jerry Glaser (CC0 1.0)

A new study, led by New York University found that the prevalence of fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription pills has been increasing in the US, possibly placing a wider population at risk for unintentional exposure. 

According to the study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, American law enforcement is seizing fentanyl pills at a rate nearly 50 times greater than four years ago

In the first quarter of 2018, authorities seized about 42,000 pills containing the highly potent drug, according to the National Institutes of Health. By the last quarter of 2021, that number had ticked above 2 million pills seized – a 50-fold increase.

Most of the pills, according to The Guardian, were disguised to look like legitimate prescription medications such as Percocet, Xanax, Adderal, and others.

“These look just like prescription pills – that’s the scary part,” said the study’s lead author, Joseph Palamar, a professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. He said he worries about people who dabble in recreational drugs getting hit with deadly doses of fentanyl-tainted drugs. “One pill that contains fentanyl literally can kill you.”

Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, and the study’s authors raise the alarm over the danger that users will overdose, especially if they believe the pills are legitimate pharmaceutical products, reports NPR.org.

Other experts are concerned that with many users realizing that fentanyl is in many counterfeit pills, they are actually seeking the pills out.

Caleb Banta-Green, a principal research scientist at the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said awareness of fentanyl pills has risen quickly among users.

In a recent survey in Washington State, two-thirds of those who used fentanyl said they did so “on purpose.” They said they consumed fentanyl most often in pill form.

According to Banta-Green, many users think that fentanyl in pill form is safer than injected opioids or heroin, and because the fentanyl “high” is more fleeting than other drugs, people end up consuming it more often — even 20 or 30 times a day.

“Every time you’re using, you also have a risk of overdose,” says Banta-Green. “It’s one of the reasons we’re seeing these death rates that are so high because there are so many more opportunities for a person to overdose because they’re using so much more frequently.”

The study comes as the number of overdose deaths in the US has risen to an annual record 106,000 per year, thanks largely to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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