Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing large quantities of counterfeit prescription pills that contain the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned in a statement Monday.
The deadly pills have been found on Long Island and in New York City, as well as other parts of the country, the DEA said.
The DEA found 27 percent of a sampling of pills seized nationwide between January and March contained potentially lethal doses of the drug.
“Capitalizing on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse in the United States, drug trafficking organizations are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said. “Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year.”
Opioids, particularly those containing fentanyl, have killed more than 600 people on Long Island since 2017, according to officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“Fentanyl analogues are the most dangerous drugs on the street because they are man-made, cheap, and unlimited,” said Ray Donovan, the DEA’s special agent in charge of the New York division.
While the number of opioid overdoses on Long Island is now declining, 147 people in Nassau died as a result of them in 2018; in Suffolk, 235 were projected this year through Sept. 30, those counties' officials have said.
The opioid crisis has cost Long Island's economy roughly $8 billion a year in medical expenses, lost worker productivity and economic losses, according to a study issued in September by the Fiscal Policy Institute.
“Counterfeit pills have hidden dangers causing one in four users to die, according to DEA field testing,” Donovan said. “This is a warning to New Yorkers and a plea for parents to talk to their children about using counterfeit or diverted prescription pills. Either one of them ends with death and/or devastation.”