'We've had multiple seizures': DEA Denver Division shares uptick, danger of counterfeit pills

DEA: Thousands of pills seized each month
"We've had multiple seizures," DEA Denver Division shares uptick and danger of counterfeit pills
Posted at 11:34 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 13:34:57-04

DENVER —- This month, the Drug Enforcement Administration launched its "One Pill Can Kill" campaign to raise awareness of counterfeit pill dangers.

Colorado has a front row seat as the drugs are trafficked through the country.

"These pills nowadays are manufactured in clandestine laboratories south of our border, and they arrive across the Southwest border. Then, Denver is basically a distribution hub for the states north of us," said David Olesky, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Denver Division.

In the last two weeks, the Denver Division has seized at least 40,000-45,000 counterfeit pills. Sometimes, the fake pills are being confiscated more frequently.

"Just in the last month, we've had multiple seizures in excess of 50,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills," he said.

Following the start of the opioid epidemic, Olesky said the DEA came down hard with regulations to fight pharmaceuticals being over prescribed.

"The Mexican drug trafficking organizations have taken advantage of this, and they have started to produce counterfeit pills, which look exactly like what you would get from from your local pharmacy," he said.

For every five counterfeit pills confiscated in Denver, two will have lethal amounts of fentanyl, Olesky said. One kilo of counterfeit pills can sell for around $2 million in the Denver market.

"If you were to picture just granules of salt or sugar or picture the tip of a pencil, that's a sufficient dose to kill somebody," Olesky said. "You are playing Russian roulette with your lives."

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment said there have been more than 472 deaths from fentanyl this year, which is more than double the 222 deaths during all of 2019 and four times higher than the 102 deaths in 2018`.

"The Mexican drug trafficking organizations that are behind this are not trying to kill their clients, but they don't mind if it happens in the process, and the reason for that is how profitable these drugs are for them," Olesky said.

He added that many of the pills can be purchased easily on social media and shared a warning for parent.

"What we're seeing nowadays is the most common methods by which our young population is acquiring these drugs are via the social media applications: TikTok, Snapchat and even Facebook. If your son or your daughter is unsupervised on these social media applications, now is the time to start talking to them about these dangerous drugs."