UPDATE: Counterfeit opioids on the rise in Iowa

An image of counterfeit prescription drugs provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pills...
An image of counterfeit prescription drugs provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pills often mimic the look of opioids like oxycodone using similar shapes and symbols.(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 26, 2018 at 12:22 PM CDT
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Don't take it unless it was prescribed to you. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa put out that warning about opioids, Thursday.

Officials said in a news conference they're seeing a rise in counterfeit prescription pills being sold on the streets and online.

These pills often look like opioids such as oxycodone but contain synthetic drugs that are much more potent and can kill with one dose. Specifically, officials mentioned fentanyl, 100 times more potent than morphine, and carfentanil, 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

"We're not immune from this problem," said Peter Deegan, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa. "We're going to see these kinds of counterfeit pills out there. We just need to be aware of it as a community and make sure no one makes the mistake of actually taking one."

Counterfeit pills have made national headlines, recently. Law enforcement announced earlier this month they believe knockoff medication led to the death of music icon, Prince, two years ago. Investigators found high levels of fentanyl in the singer's system.

"In all likelihood, Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him," said Carver County Attorney Mark Metz, during an April 19 news briefing. "Others around Prince likely did not know the pills were counterfeit, containing fentanyl."

The United States Attorney's Office is holding a press conference in Cedar Rapids to discuss the dangers of counterfeit pills and the opioid epidemic.

Posted by KCRG-TV9 on Thursday, April 26, 2018

Officials estimate 180 Americans die every day from drug overdoses. The opioid epidemic is credited with lowering U.S. life expectancy in 2015 and 2016, for the first time in decades.

"The opioid epidemic really cuts across every demographic," said Deputy Criminal Chief Patrick Reinert. "It cuts across every age. It cuts across race, every gender. Whatever gender you may have. It cuts across all those demographics."

Officials recommend that you get rid of any medication you have in the house so it doesn't end up in the wrong hands. Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Cities across eastern Iowa have drop-off locations to take drugs - mostly at law enforcement offices - no questions asked.