Counterfeit pills containing Fentanyl on rise in Twin Cities

The United States is in the middle of a Fentanyl crisis, and local representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration confirm that the problem in the Twin Cities “replicates what is seen across the country."

“We know that we are seizing significantly more numbers of these pills,” said Ken Solek, Jr., assistant special agent in charge of the DEA Twin Cities office.

Counterfeit pills are now considered a global threat, one that is pushed and purchased on the dark web and on the streets.

“Usually what you see in these pills is a combination of a multitude of different types of narcotics,” Solek, Jr. said.

Those who buy and sell the fraudulent pills sometimes aren't even aware they can contain deadly amounts of Fentanyl.

Not only does the issue exacerbate the nation's opioid crisis, but it continues to trouble the Twin Cities DEA office because it permeates the metro and is difficult to classify.

“It’s definitely here, it’s definitely a concern,” Solek, Jr. said. “It's just a matter, again, of defining exactly what the addict or the person buying these narcotics is looking for.”

Solek, Jr. adds that buyers usually seek opioid-based pills and traffickers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico produce the pills with Fentanyl because it is cheaper, yet they market the pills as the real thing.

“They’re just packaging it to make it more receptive to the average person,” Solek Jr. said.

Why would manufacturers and drug traffickers risk killing their clientele? According to the DEA, producers and sellers believe that the demand will always be there, whether buyers seek to chase a high, manage prescription pill dependence or to simply relieve pain.

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“I have this fear that I will be the doctor that gives them this first taste of the beginning of the end of their battle with addiction,” said Jon B. Cole, MD, of the Medical Toxicology Poison Center.

According to the Minnesota Poison Center, there were 572 overdose deaths statewide last year, and more than half were from prescribed drugs.

“I have this in the background of my mind when I write these prescriptions,” Dr. Cole said. “A man I talked to one time said, 'oh yeah, the first time I ever tried Oxy the first thing I thought was why would I ever drink again, when I can feel this good?'”

And, with Fentanyl in the mix, the crisis remains multi-faceted.

“At the point that you turn to those types of means, unfortunately, you're going to suffer from the consequences,” Solek, Jr. said.

The DEA expects to see an increase in overdoses, deaths and people dependent on opiates.

If you know someone battling dependence or addiction, check out our list of local resources:

Alltyr Clinic
332 Minnesota Street
Suite W1260
St. Paul, MN 55101

Birch Counseling, LLC
4150 Olson Memorial Highway
Suite 420
Golden Valley, Minnesota 55422

New Beginnings Minnesota
13100 Wayzata Boulevard Suite 140
Minnetonka, MN 55345
763-658-5800 (Twin Cities Metro)

15251 Pleasant Valley Rd
Center City, MN 55012