Federal officials encouraging Iowa parents to speak with children about drug dangers

DEA investigators in Iowa have seized approximately 3,400 pills in the first seven months of 2021.
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:07 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - As students across Iowa return to school, the Drug Enforcement Administration is asking families to talk about the dangers of drugs, specifically on the risk of overdose associated with counterfeit pills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 92,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020. Emily Murray, public information officer with the DEA, said they have seen a surge in counterfeit pills, with 26% of the pills examined in 2019 containing a potentially lethal dose, 2 milligrams or more, of fentanyl.

According to the DEA, counterfeit pills are made to look like legitimate pharmaceuticals, like Xanax or Aderol. But Murray said, in reality, it is a counterfeit pill that is oftentimes laced with fentanyl.

“What we are seeing is these counterfeit pills are being mixed, there is no consistency, there is no quality control, they are made to look like a legitimate pill and they are selling on the streets, on the dark web,” Murray said. “People have access to them and, unfortunately, we have seen an increase in overdose deaths from things such as counterfeit pills.”

Between 2019 and 2020, the CDC reported a nearly 30% increase in drug overdose deaths. 92,183 people died from a drug overdose in 2020 and nearly 61% of these deaths involved synthetic opioids including fentanyl.

Murray added they have also had to target younger audiences now. Usually, they would have these conversations with students in middle and high school, but now they are speaking with children as young as kindergarten or even pre-school.

“We just start with basic conversations with little kids just to explain to them if you know how to spell your name or if you can recognize your name in writing we put that into perspective for kids by saying, ‘If your name is not on a pill bottle you should not be taking it,’” Murray said. “So we try to start a basic conversation with kids.”

Murray recognized it can be uncomfortable for some parents to talk to their children about this. She encourages those needing help to visit for resources.

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