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DEA Summit Aims to Raise Awareness on Growth of Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

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U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Photo of counterfeit Roxycodone pills seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

As part of their Operation Engage Program, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency held their Los Angeles Community Summit earlier this week.

The event's focus was to address the most significant issue the DEA has seen in the last year. Bill Bodner leads the Los Angeles division of the DEA. He says there has been a proliferation of counterfeit prescription drugs laced with fentanyl, specifically counterfeit Roxicodone. "The single trend having the biggest impact is the shift to synthetic drugs and the accompanying deception that's being used to market these drugs," said Bodner.

DEA Los Angeles Division
Official portrait of Special Agent Bill Bodner.

He added, "Many of the people, especially the young people that are getting these pills believe they are actually Roxicodone pills, and perhaps they have had experience with legitimate pharmaceutical pills, and they feel comfortable taking these pills. That is where the issue is coming that's causing all the drug harm in our community."

According to the DEA, in 2020, 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the U.S. Bodner also spoke of how the drug has reached teens in high school and middle school. Bodner said, "The scary part of this drug is how it's been marketed now on social media and how a lot of that has made it easier for younger people to have the drug delivered right to their home." Bodner says Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Snapchat are where they've seen the most activity.

State Senator Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore also spoke at the event. She said she was made more aware of the issue after a constituent's daughter died after taking one pill.

Melendez said, "And this goes across every demographic you can think of Latino families, black families, white families, Asian families, rich/poor, everything. It was just astonishing to me to see how many people it was affecting."

This year Melendez introduced SB-350, which would give a judge the ability to charge a manufacture or distributor of counterfeit controlled substances with voluntary manslaughter or murder after a second offense.

Melendez added, "While holding the drug dealers and the drug traffickers isn't going to solve the problem in its entirety, it's certainly going to be a helpful tool in making sure that people, you know you might want to reconsider what drugs you're selling out there or perhaps getting into a different line of work entirely."

The bill wasn't unable to get past committee and was not held up for a vote in the state senate or assembly. Other summit participants included many local prevention and treatment leaders.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and had previously interned for the station in the Spring of 2019. Outside of KVCR, Jonathan also interned for KALW in San Francisco, KFI in Burbank, and Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador.