Counterfeit Xanax, often laced with fentanyl, is becoming a huge problem in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
The counterfeits are sold as a recreational drug on the streets and over the Internet after being interlaced with the powerful opiod fentanyl. Xanax, a minor tranquilizer used to treat anxiety disorders, is one of most prescribed medicines in the United States. However, Xanax is rarely prescribed in the United Kingdom—but its recreational use has made it a growing threat (see video). It is also a growing problem with students in the United States who use the drug for recreational purposes.
On the street, counterfeit Xanax goes by several names: Xanies, zany bars, footballs, Christmas trees, and blue devils.
140 pounds of fentanyl and almost 30,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl were seized in a search of a tractor-trailer at a checkpoint in San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico’s Sonora state on August 19th. The drugs are believed to have been headed to the United States. The street value is estimated at over $1.2 billion dollars.
A few days earlier 30,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl were discovered during a traffic stop by the Tempe Arizona Police Department in connection with an investigation into the Sinaloa Cartel. The pills were designed to look like oxycodone.
“Drug importation proposals would worsen the opioid crisis – a crisis that
has already grown substantially worse due to the powerful opioid fentanyl
and fentanyl analogue-laced counterfeit pills being produced by illegal drug
trafficking organizations, including in China, and reaching the United States
through Canada and Mexico.”
“Report on the Potential Impact of Drug Importation Proposals on U.S. Law Enforcement” by Louis Freeh, et al.
S.469, Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) will amend the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 384) to allow for the importation of drugs by wholesale distributors, pharmacies and individuals. S.469 opens importation first from Canada and within two years from any country that is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
However, critics of S.469, notably former FBI director Louis Freeh, have criticized the bill warning that it will exacerbate the problem of counterfeit opiods, specifically fentanyl, which is a great problem throughout the United States and Canada (see attached report).
Fentanyl, a dangerous painkiller, is 20 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. The drugs are so toxic that investigators have to wear hazmat suits during seizures. In a report by The Partnership for Safe Medicines, U.S. authorities began reporting waves of overdoses and fatalities after residents took counterfeit Xanax or opioids that contained fentanyl or fentanyl analogues in 2015. The problem has spread to at least 31 states, and recently, authorities have been seeing pills containing carfentanil, an even more powerful drug used to sedate large animals. The problem is the drug is smuggled from Canada or Mexico across the border into the United States.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, hundreds of thousands of counterfeit prescription pills laced with a deadly synthetic opioid, usually fentanyl, have infiltrated the US drug market. The problem is expected to escalate.
The pills are pressed using pharmacy-grade machines to look like known prescription painkillers. An increasing number of Americans addicted to opioids are seeking out the legit painkillers illegally, and instead are buying the synthetic. They contain various amounts of fentanyl. The pills must often be tested by a lab to determine if they are counterfeit.