RI issues public health advisory over uptick in nonfatal overdoses


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is expressing concern over the sharp increase in the lethality and availability of counterfeit pills.

The DEA issued a warning regarding the fake prescriptions Monday, stating that most of the pills contain lethal doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“The only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist,” the DEA said in a statement. “Any pills that do not meet this standard are unsafe and potentially deadly.”

Jon DeLena, associate special agent in charge of the DEA’s New England division, said drug traffickers are selling these counterfeit pills to exploit the nation’s opioid crisis.

“There’s never been a more dangerous time in our country’s history when it comes to these pills,” DeLena said. “We lost 93,000 Americans to drug overdoses last year.”

DeLena said even the most seasoned DEA investigators can’t necessarily tell a real pill from a fake one.

“The DEA, this year alone, has seized 9.5 million of these pills. That’s more than the last two years combined,” he said.

Rhode Island isn’t immune to the impacts of the opioid crisis.

The R.I. Department of Health issued a statewide public health advisory last week “due to increased opioid overdose activity throughout the state.”

The alert was issued after 48 nonfatal overdoses were reported within a seven-day period, according to Medical Director Dr. James McDonald.

The communities with the highest numbers of suspected overdoses include Providence, Burrillville, Foster, Glocester and Scituate.

This isn’t the first time the state has flagged Providence for an increase in non-fatal overdoses. Back in July, the Health Department issued a public health advisory specifically for the capital city.

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