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Increased Seizures of Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Pills 


A new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy revealed a significant surge in seizures of illicit fentanyl-containing pills between January 2017 and December 2023. According to the survey, law enforcement seized over 115 million fentanyl pills in 2023, a stark increase from the roughly 49,000 pills seized in 2017. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and counterfeit pills are the primary drivers of the escalating overdose crisis nationwide.


Dr. Joseph J. Palamar, an associate professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and lead author of the study, shared in a news release: “About half of seized fentanyl is now in pill form, suggesting that the illicit drug landscape has rapidly changed. Fentanyl in pill form not only makes it easier for people to initiate use, but also increases the chances that people who buy illicit pills could be unintentionally exposed to fentanyl since it is commonly present in counterfeit pills pressed to resemble oxycodone, Xanax, or even Adderall.”


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supported the study. It analyzed data from the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program within the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 


"Illicit drugs have always been less than pure, but these new counterfeit pills are killers, made to resemble a wide variety of prescription drugs, not limited to opioids,” shared Professor Mark S. Gold, M.D. of Washington University in St. Louis. “The increased seizures of illicit fentanyl pills only take a fraction of these pills out of the illegal drug market, leaving millions more to be unknowingly consumed by Americans everywhere. It is paramount that people be hyper-vigilant and not ingest any pills unless they are from a pharmacist and prescribed.”


For more information, click here or access the journal article.

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