How Fake Pills Fuel the Overdose Epidemic

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Fentanyl-laced fake pills are flooding communities nationwide. These counterfeit and illicitly produced pills look like legitimate prescription opioids such as oxycodone and Xanax. Some fake pills are now being manufactured in rainbow colors to resemble candy. Let’s examine how counterfeit pills contribute to opioid addiction and the overdose epidemic. 

Fake Pill Facts 

Substance users may unwittingly find themselves addicted to fake pills or illicit opioids, with deadly effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 187 people die daily from opioid overdose.

The main contributors to this alarming increase include: 

  • Fake pills are often sold on the street as a cheaper alternative to prescription opioids.   
  • It’s easily distributed nationwide and sold in urban and rural communities. It may be easier for people to obtain them without a prescription.   
  • Counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids.
  • Most fake pills are now laced with fentanyl, a deadly opiate that is highly addictive, and potent even in trace amounts. Learn more about the dangers of fentanyl.

Why Fake Pills Cause Overdose  

Drug cartels and distributors are creating dangerous and potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which are much stronger than prescription opioids and can be deadly even in small doses. These synthetic opioids are often added to counterfeit pills to increase their potency and make them more addictive, but they can also cause fatal overdoses. 

Additionally, fake pills are often sold as a cheap alternative; they can be quickly obtained and mass distributed. Because of the potency of these fentanyl-laced drugs, this leads to a higher number of overdoses. These compounding effects make it easier and more common for people to unknowingly ingest lethal amounts of fentanyl

This alarming, dangerous trend has led the DEA to issue a stark warning:

“Never take a pill that wasn’t prescribed directly to you. Never take a pill from a friend. Never take a pill bought on social media. Just one pill is dangerous, and one pill can kill.” 

Counterfeit Pills Impact Everyone

Counterfeit pills or fake pill addiction affects everyone, no one is immune whether they use a substance or a loved one is misusing pills and other drugs. Even marijuana sold on the street is now often laced with fentanyl to make it more potent and addictive.

Because it is almost impossible to identify whether street bought drugs are fake and laced, it can be easy to make the mistake that the drug is safe. According to the DEA, “the majority of counterfeit pills resemble oxycodone 30mg pills (M30s), but can also mimic hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), Adderall, and other medications.

And, alarmingly, illicit drug manufacturers are producing mass quantities of fake pills designed to target children and teens. These counterfeit pills come in interesting shapes and bright colors to appeal to those age groups, often resembling candy.

It is critical for families to talk to their children and loved ones about this deadly fake pill epidemic. Everyone, regardless of age, needs to understand that one pill, can kill. Asking your loved one or child questions such as “Do you know about counterfeit pills?” or “Why do you think someone would buy pain pills or medications off the street?” can begin the conversation. During the conversation, ensure it is understood that ANY drug bought or taken that is not directly prescribed by a doctor and purchased at a pharmacy can cause overdose and death.

Finding Help for Fake Pill Addiction

Although the dangers are growing from the distribution of fake and counterfeit pills, highly effective treatment options are available to help anyone struggling.

At Valley Hope Addiction Treatment and Recovery, we use evidence-based best practices throughout our full continuum of care to provide patients with effective fentanyl addiction treatment, including medically-monitored detox that safely and comfortably minimizes the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that combats cravings. When used in combination with residential and outpatient addiction treatment, Valley Hope patients can achieve sobriety and find healing in long-term recovery.

If you are addicted to fentanyl or other opioids, don’t wait to seek help. It is critical to find a treatment center that provides medically monitored detoxification to ensure your safety and MAT therapy to help prevent a relapse that can lead to deadly overdose.

Valley Hope has an expert team standing by to help guide you through every step of the admissions and treatment process — from your first phone call to lifelong recovery support.

For over 55 years, Valley Hope has served a mission to help people and families struggling with the disease of addiction. With 14 programs across six states — Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, our compassionate team has helped more than 330,000 people find new life in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

For immediate help 24/7, call your Local Admissions Team at (800) 544-5101.