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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) -  Due to growing reports of lethal and non-lethal overdoses caused by counterfeit pain medications, the Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public safety alert.

It’s the first such advisory the agency has released since 2015. And the concern is shared by Minnesota and local public safety officials.

The urgent advisory warns the public of the extreme dangers of buying counterfeit pain meds on the street. The DEA says many of the bogus meds are laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl or methamphetamine and this has led to a record number of overdose deaths around the country.

Minnesota is among the states where the problem has been growing. According to the DEA, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized around the country so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. Nearly 75,000 of those have been confiscated in Minnesota. This marks a significant increase from the less than 1,500 pills seized just three years ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths.

“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in the statement.

The DEA says its lab tests showed two of every five fake pills containing fentanyl contained a potentially lethal dose of the drug. A lethal dose of fentanyl is 2 milligrams, which is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, Milgram said. 

The Rochester Police Dept. and Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office are also trying to spread the word about the dangers of the drugs.

Counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks and are made to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®). Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.

News update:  Covid booster shot plan for Rochester area announced.

FILL IN THE BLANK: Rochester has way too many ________.

If someone asked you, "What does Rochester have too many of?", what would you say? I asked that question to people living in the Med City and got quite the list of answers. Some might make you laugh (cause they are true) and others may have you scratching your head a bit because this is the first time you've realized we have a few issues happening in our gorgeous city. Scroll through the list that were sent to me and see how many you agree with.