Things were already bad. Beyond bad. Now they were getting worse. Beyond worse. Yet not even the most concerted efforts could seem to make 'em any better. Drugs kept flooding American streets. Overdoses kept filling American hospitals. And bodies continued to pack American cemeteries. All because of counterfeit pills.

In fact, the numbers of seized pills increased with such ferocity the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a targeted Public Safety Alert. Its first in six years. Then again, that rise in counterfeit pill seizures also meant a commensurate rise in fatal overdoses, and the DEA needed to do everything it could to try and put a stop to both.

That was back at the end of last September. The DEA's Alert was called One Pill Can Kill. And though the widespread campaign did do much to bring the counterfeit pill issue to light, the problem hasn't subsided. If anything, it may have gotten even worse. Overdoses are still rampant; so are the deaths. So much so, in fact, that we thought it'd be a good idea to take another look at the matter. After all, our colleagues at Healing Properties haven't stopped hammering at the problem. In fact, HP not only looked at the issue last fall, but they went and investigated Snap Chat's relation to the problem just last month. Heck, HP even pulled off a related Report from Seattle just last week!

So without further ado, we get to the sheer horror being brought about by counterfeit pills.

Counterfeit Pills: A Nationwide Problem

Just how are Americans getting their hands on these counterfeit pills? Why are the deaths so prevalent? And who's dying anyway? Is it the hardcore substance abuser? The weekend warrior? Both? Neither?

Let's investigate this plague of counterfeit pills and put an end to the widespread killing of Americans once and for all.

What's in a Counterfeit Pill?

When is a pill not just a pill? Well, when it comes off the Black Market. Because then it's quite likely a pill that will kill you. That's the word from the DEA, who responded to the rash of deaths caused by internet-bought counterfeit pills with that One Pill Can Kill Campaign.

In that Alert we learned counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).

We also learned the counterfeit pills' vast array of street names.

Opioids: 30s; 40s; 512s; Beans; Blues; Buttons; Cotton; Greens; Hillbilly Heroin; Kickers; Killers; Mexi Blues; Muchachas; Mujeres; OC; Oxy; Oxy 80s; Roxy; Roxy Shorts; Whites.

Depressants: Bars; Benzos; Bicycle Handle Bars; Bicycle Parts; Bricks; Footballs; Handlebars; Hulk; Ladders; Planks; School Bus; Sticks; Xanies; Yellow Boys; Zanbars; Zannies; Z-Bars

Stimulants: A-Train; Abby; Addy; Amps; Christmas Trees; Co-Pilots; Lid Poppers; Smart Pills; Smarties; Study Buddies; Study Skittles; Truck Drivers; Zing

Then we learned at least four of every 10 seized pills had a lethal dose of fentanyl.

"A lethal dosage of fentanyl is just two milligrams," said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr, "equivalent in size to a few grains of salt, as compared to a lethal dose of heroin at 30 milligrams. That’s why communities everywhere have tragically experienced more fatal overdoses."

"That pill you bought off the street could be the last one you ever take."

Buying Counterfeit Pills

As Healing Properties so roundly revealed, these deadly pills are coming into American lives via Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook Marketplace and other social media apps.

snapchat 2

HP also passed along the DEA's handy dandy drug decoder so concerned friends and family members will know what's what.

"It’s crucial to know what your friends and family members are texting about," wrote Healing Properties. "It’s especially important to be able to suss out what’s what when a child seems off or distant or otherwise out of sorts. Sure, a parent can ask. And it would be terrific if they received truthful answers. But truthful answers are rare. Even rarer is a child is abusing drugs. Besides, time is of the essence. We really are talking life or death here. In fact, the way today’s pills are being manufactured, it’s much more likely to be death."

Seizing Counterfeit Pills

As mentioned, the DEA continues to seize more and more of these deadly pills. In fact, They're not the only agency on the job, either. In fact, the task is consuming everyone from Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to state and local police departments. The results: seizures are up 430% over the last two years.

Here are a few recent headlines:

Arrest of Four Drug Traffickers in Clackamas County Leads to Seizure of 150,000 Fentanyl Pills
U.S. Attorney's Office | District of Oregon

Two Rhode Island Men Charged in Wide-Ranging Fentanyl Trafficking Conspiracy
U.S. Attorney's Office | District of Massachusetts

DEA: Over 800 arrested, 1.8M fake pills seized in monthslong operation
Courtesy Rachel Tillman | Spectrum News' NY1

All in all, the Feds' two-month-long operation took nearly two million counterfeit pills off our streets and put over 800 contributing killers behind bars. That comprehensive effort also served as the perfect lead-up to the DEA's One Pill Can Kill Campaign.

Dying from Counterfeit Pills

You know by now that over 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021. You probably also know that over 75% of those overdoses involved an opioid. With fentanyl configuring in nearly every drug out there, it isn't difficult to figure out which opioid is killing everybody.

Here are a few heartbreaking snapshots:

Fourteen-year-old Alondra Salinas had set out her new white sneakers and packed her backpack the night before the first day of in-person high school when police say she responded to a Snapchat offer for blue pills. Her mother couldn’t wake her the next morning.

"Killed by a Pill Bought on Social Media" Erin McCormick | The Guardian

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When Becky Stewart hadn't heard from her 19-year-old son in several hours, she decided to check on him at his Leander apartment. But when she got there on March 20, Cameron Stewart wouldn't answer the door and she called police. Officers found him dead inside and later said he had died from taking an illegal pill laced with a deadly amount of fentanyl.

"Like Russian Roulette" Claire Osborn | Austin American-Statesman

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On Sunday, Portland (Oregon) Police responded to a suspected overdose death of a high-school-aged youth. In the teen’s possession were suspected fentanyl pills, commonly known as “M30s.” The next day, Monday, officers responded to another suspected overdose death of a high-school-aged youth. Officers also found pills like the ones found Sunday.

"Two Teens Die from Overdose of Suspected Counterfeit Pills | Multnomah County Website

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Adams County (Colorado) District Attorney Brian Mason described what he saw inside the apartment as "out of a nightmare, like a homicide scene."

"These five people essentially dropped dead where they were" he said. "They didn’t have time to call for help."

They thought they were doing cocaine.

"We’re finding fentanyl in cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and oxycontin and, even in limited circumstances, we found it in marijuana," said Mason. "This is a huge public safety crisis."

"Fentanyl Linked to 5 Deaths in Commerce City" Allison Sherry | Colorado Public Radio

Recovery Boot Camp Wants to Help

What about you? Have you lost a loved one to fentanyl? More than one? Have you yourself also suffered an accidental overdose? Are you here but for the grace of Narcan? Well, as you very well know (and as the above makes abundantly clear), Narcan isn't always around. Fentanyl seems to be around though. Nearly everywhere and every time someone is using any drug. It's also almost always in fatal doses.

The only truly safe solution is to not do drugs. Yeah, we know. Much easier said than done. We've even believed that. Then we got clean. Saw sobriety was indeed possible. And we haven't looked back since.

Okay, so maybe we have looked back. But it's usually only to see how far we've come. Yes, if you saw how we used to be, you'd find it difficult to believe. We often have trouble believing it ourselves. But it happened. We and our alumni are living, breathing, laughing, loving and succeeding proof. So are our pals at Healing Properties. And their legion comes in the thousands. Really.

Look, like HP, Recovery Boot Camp is committed to helping people beat addiction. Period. That means wherever they are, whatever their problem substance. If we can't help you ourselves, we'll point you in the right direction. Just so long as you get clear of the danger -- and get going with all that great good life you've got left to live.

Give us a ring. We'll sort you out. You'll thank yourself for doing so too.

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