The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public warning about fake prescription pills that may contain fentanyl and methamphetamine that could be lethal to consumers.

This is the first warning from the DEA in six years as the agency sees a surge in counterfeit pills that are mass produced by criminal drug networks in labs, which it said are then “deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills” that kill “unsuspecting Americans at an unprecedented rate.”

This year alone, the DEA has seized 9.5 million counterfeit pills – more than the last two years combined. But in its recent lab testing, it has revealed that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of fake pills that contain 2 mg of fentanyl – an opioid in a lethal dose that is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, it said.

These pills are designed to look identical to real prescription medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, or amphetamines. They are often sold on social media or e-commerce sites and can wind up in the hands of minors, the DEA said.

The counterfeit pills are brought into the U.S. from Mexico, with China supplying the chemicals to produce the chemicals to make fentanyl in Mexico, according to the agency.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA, said in a statement.

“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose,” she added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 93,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2020.

The DEA warning does not apply to prescriptions of legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by a healthcare professional and filled by a licensed pharmacist.

The DEA said, “Anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.”

Pills An illustration picture taken in Lille, France, shows pills, tablets, caplets and capsules of medicine, May 7, 2017. Photo: Getty Images