Counterfeit Pills Projected to Kill Over 100,000

Paramedics are handling overdose from pills

Counterfeit pills have become a major health and safety concern in Colorado. To the untrained eye, these fake pills look almost identical to real pharmaceuticals. Instead of containing the expected ingredients, they contain deadly doses of fentanyl or methamphetamine. The DEA has launched a public awareness campaign to bring more attention to the growing problem in the community because, to a lot of unaware users and their families, they may be ingesting what appears to be an oxycodone tablet, but with a deadly punch.

Fake pharmaceutical drugs have been reported as early as 2015 when there were reports of a batch of fake Xanax pills that had led to fatal overdoses. There were also reports that Prince, Tom Petty, and a lesser-known rapper named Lil’ Peep all overdosed on counterfeit pills. In the year 2020 alone, there were a mind-boggling 93,000 deaths attributed to fake pills that were laced with fentanyl. Currently, it is projected that 2021 will see 100,000 deaths.

These fake pills come in the form of oxycodone 30mg pills, Adderall 30mg pills, and Xanax 2mg pills (aka “bars”). To most people, these pills look like the real thing. They have the correct numbers, colors, and manufacturers imprints, but when comparing them side-by-side to a legitimate pill, the differences can be seen. Sometimes the font of the imprints is wrong, or the colors are slightly off, and that’s part of what makes them so deadly. A drug user may set out to buy a 30mg oxycodone pill and be sold one, unaware of its deadly ingredients.

teenager shopping on his phone

The DEA has launched a “One pill can kill” campaign to bring more awareness to this problem. While a lot of the supply of these counterfeits comes from China, Mexico, and India, there has been a significant increase in the production of these pills in the United States. A large proportion of high school and college students have turned to social media referrals (namely Snapchat) and the dark web to purchase Adderall, Xanax, and/or oxycodone. Instead of getting the actual medication, they were looking for, they are often sold fakes instead with fatal results.

In Northern Colorado, counterfeit oxycodone has significantly increased in popularity. It has been the experience of some rehabilitation staff who say some clients have reported actively seeking out “fake blues” on purpose, knowing they’re tainted with fentanyl. Some rehabilitation clients have admitted to knowing what they were buying and understanding the high risk of a fatal overdose. As scary as that sounds, their addictions were so severe that they led them to believe it was logical to mitigate the risk of an overdose by only taking small slivers of the pills at a time. With these fake pills, it’s unknown how much fentanyl they are comprised of, so the idea of only taking a small sliver to prevent an overdose isn’t a workable harm reduction method.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction or is knowingly using fake pharmaceuticals, get them help now. Make a phone call and get them somewhere safe.



Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 11 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.