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Arizona authorities warn about blue counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl

This undated photo made available by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows heroin fentanyl pills. (DEA via AP)

PHOENIX – Arizona authorities are warning the public about counterfeit pills being sold on the streets that are laced with “truly astounding” levels of fentanyl, a powerful and potentially deadly synthetic opioid.

Dr. Steven Curry, director of the Department of Medical Toxicology at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday the pills are stamped with “M 30” to mimic a brand of oxycodone, a prescription pain medication.

“However, these M 30s on the street usually do not contain oxycodone,” Curry said.

“They can contain various drugs, but most commonly the active ingredient is fentanyl.”

Curry said fentanyl and oxycodone are both opioids, but the former is far more potent.

Fentanyl and its derivatives have legitimate medical uses, Curry said, but doctors don’t prescribe it in pill form.

“When the authorities have confiscated and analyzed these blue pills, the amount of fentanyl that’s in some of these pills is truly astounding, with doses where a single pill would be enough to kill many, many persons,” he said.

Curry said that although much of the fentanyl in the pills doesn’t get absorbed when ingested, “the amount that’s absorbed certainly can be fatal.”

A December 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fentanyl was the drug involved in the most overdoses nationwide.

Last week, Scottsdale police arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of providing a pill laced with fentanyl to a Notre Dame Prep classmate who overdosed but was expected to recover.

In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection made its biggest fentanyl bust ever, seizing nearly 254 pounds of the drug inside a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona.

In response to the opioid crisis, Arizona established the Opioid Assistance and Referral Line at 1-888-688-4222, a free hotline manned by medical experts 24 hours a day.

“It is for patients or family members or even medical professionals to call for almost any reason with regard to concerns for opiate use and abuse,” Curry said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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