By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Fake prescription pills, often laced with fentanyl, have led to an alarming increase in overdose deaths across the country, prompting the DEA to issue a warning against buying such products online or from social media.

(credit: DEA)

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In Southern California alone, the DEA says fentanyl has driven up drug-related deaths in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. In 2019, 2,324 people died of drug overdoses, 33% of which involved fentanyl. A year later, drug overdose deaths skyrocketed 59% to 3,702, and those involving fentanyl went up as well to 51%.

Throughout the region, the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division has seized approximately 1.2 million counterfeit pills in all of 2020, but agents have already seized more than that amount in just the first six months of 2021.

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“The sad reality is that these dangerous counterfeit pills made with fentanyl are having deadly consequences not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide,” Bill Bodner, LA Field Division Special Agent-In-Charge, said in a statement. “As individuals are being deceived and families are grieving the loss of loved ones, drug dealers profit. It’s not the pill you think it is.”

According to the DEA, most counterfeit pills are illegal manufactured with chemicals from China and manufactured in Mexico to look like opioid medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, or stimulants like amphetamines. They are often sold on social media and online.

(credit: DEA)

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Most of the pills seized have tested positive for at least 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered to be a lethal dose. For a stark illustration, the DEA says a deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.