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Don’t Get Faked Out: 3 Things to Know about Fake Prescription Drugs

(Published August 1, 2022)

Touting convenience and cost savings, Internet and social media marketing of over-the-counter and prescription drugs is abundant, with access easier than ever before. Going online to buy medications from a retail pharmacy can be quite different than purchasing from a pharmacy that only has a retail presence – what you see might not always be what you get.

For the safety of you and your loved ones, it’s important to be aware of the difference between a real and fake prescription drug, and how to find a trusted provider.

Fake Drugs are Very Difficult to Identify on Sight

One of the most prescribed medications in the United States, six out of every 100 Americans – adults and children – were taking a stimulant like Adderall in 2020 according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.[JN1] [LRL2] 

Such high demand prescription drugs have resulted in fake drug makers creating their own recipes. However, the appearance between a legitimate drug and its fake counterpart can be so close, most people – including some medical experts – wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two without taking them to a lab for chemical analysis. This is why it’s so critical to only get your medications from a licensed and approved pharmacist.

The Fake Drugs are Most Likely Laced

The danger of taking a fake drug is much more than meets the eye. Prescriptions acquired from non-legitimate pharmacists can be made with no safety precautions taken and are often bulked up and laced with cheaper drugs that cannot be seen, smelled, felt, or tasted. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 15,000 counterfeit pills were seized in Iowa in 2021.

One of the most common and dangerous drugs used to lace other substances is Fentanyl, which can kill the average person after ingesting just two milligrams. In 2021, 87% of the 434 overdose deaths in Iowa were connected to Fentanyl lacing.

Two milligrams of white powder on the tip of a pencil.

Just two milligrams of Fentanyl can kill the average person.


State and Federal Laws are Clear about Prescription Drug Providers

This begs the question: “How do I know if a pharmacist is legitimate?”

Information is readily available and easy for you to search. To help keep you and your family safe from counterfeit drugs, we’ve compiled a list of trusted resources:


You are Not Alone in the Fight Against Fake Pills

The DEA has issued a Public Safety Alert about this crisis. Here in Iowa, help is just a phone call, text, or chat away. Call us at (855)581-8111. Text (855)895-8398. Live chat for immediate help. Whether you need “in the moment” crisis counseling or have a number of questions, we’re here for you with compassion, understanding, and guidance