One Pill Can Kill

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, prescription drugs are the fourth most misused substance among teens—behind tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S. and overdose deaths have reached record numbers. The truth is, most addictions don’t start on the streets. And when it comes to prescription drug use, the truth can hurt.

Truth: Counterfeit pills are widely available and on the rise.

Criminal drug networks are flooding the country with counterfeit pills, many of which contain fentanyl or methamphetamine. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the number of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl has more than quadrupled since 2019—and 40% of the pills seized by DEA contain a lethal dose. As counterfeiting operations become more sophisticated, only a chemist can determine if a pill is safe.

Public Safety Alert

Truth: One pill CAN kill.

Whether counterfeit or authentic, prescription medications can be dangerous if taken incorrectly. A dose that’s safe for one person can be lethal to another. And a counterfeit pill may look exactly like the real thing—but contain deadly ingredients. Common counterfeited medications include anxiety meds like Xanax and Ativan, pain medications like Percocet and Vicodin, antipsychotics like Zyprexa and Risperdal, antidepressants like Zoloft, and stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

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Truth: An overdose death can happen to anyone.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose—the highest number ever recorded. In recent years, accidental overdoses caused by counterfeit pills were among those deaths. Counterfeit pills were even suspected in the death of pop star Prince, after pills found in his home labeled hydrocodone were found to contain fentanyl.

Real-life Stories

Truth: Opioids aren’t the only prescription drugs that can lead to abuse.

The dangers of opioid painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl often make the headlines. But many drug abuse problems begin with other substances, like prescription cough syrups, anxiety medications or ADHD medications. In fact, according to a 2017 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 6 percent of high school seniors reported a nonmedical use of prescription Adderall in the last year.

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Truth: Prescription drug abuse can start with legitimate use.

Some teens are prescribed prescription drugs by their doctor—many times to deal with physical pain such as a sports injury. Studies show that increases the chance of addiction later in life. If your child is in pain and a doctor is prescribing prescription pain killers, there are other options.

Opioid Alternatives

Truth: Online pharmacies aren’t always safe.

According to a review by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), only about 5% of the 22,000 websites they surveyed complied with NABP standards, safety protocols and applicable laws. Since getting drugs from a non-compliant website can be very dangerous, they’ve made a database of legitimate and illegitimate online pharmacies.

Check an online pharmacy

Truth: There are better ways to dispose of old pills than flushing them.

While it’s important to remove unused drugs from your home, flushing them down the toilet contaminates the water supply. Many locations offer permanent drug disposal boxes.

Find safe RX Disposal

Test your knowledge of the dangers of prescription drugs.

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