U.S. Attorney for the Maine district Halsey B. Frank has joined the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in alerting the public to counterfeit pills killing Americans, according to a statement released on Monday afternoon.

Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl, a dangerous and potentially lethal synthetic opioid, for distribution throughout North America, according to the press release.

Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide between January and March of 2019, the DEA found that 27% contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

“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,” said Uttam Dhillon, acting administrator for the DEA. “Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year.”

Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids remain the primary catalysts behind the ongoing opioid crisis, with fentanyl being involved in more deaths than any other illicit drug, according to the news release.

“Buying drugs from street dealers is deadly especially when fentanyl is disguised as a real pharmaceutical,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent for the DEA. “The DEA and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners stand committed to taking deadly fentanyl off the streets of New England and ensuring those who manufacture and traffic these lethal pills are held accountable for the communities and families they damage with this poison.”

A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about 2 milligrams but can vary based on a person’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors.

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