DEA fights new counterfeit prescription drug trend

The Drug Enforcement Administration is fighting back against the new trend of counterfeit prescription drugs that have been hitting the streets of Houston. The DEA gave FOX 26 a close-up look at how they're combating a variety of illegal drugs that have helped make 2017 the deadliest year in U.S. history when it comes to drug overdoses.

Many of the counterfeit drugs have been manufactured in rogue labs in Mexico and contain lethal doses of fentanyl, according to the DEA.

"Fentanyl can be 100 times more potent than heroin," said Will Glaspy, special agent in charge of the DEA's Houston division. "Mexican drug cartels have started manufacturing counterfeit pain medication that looks like the same hydrocodone, oxycodone that you would get prescribed by your doctor and pick up at your local pharmacist."

Glaspy says people buying the drugs on the street don't always know they're purchasing counterfeit drugs.

"Somebody thinks, well hey look, I can buy this from this guy," said Glaspy. "It's cheaper than getting it from the pharmacist. It looks just like the pill that my doctor prescribes to me, but it's not. It's counterfeit and contains deadly quantities of fentanyl in it."

More than 63,000 people died of drug overdoses last year in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's more than 170 deaths every day due to drug abuse--an all time record.

The DEA says the drugs are trafficked in and out of Houston on Hwy 59/I-69 and I-10.

"The Houston area is heavily influenced by the Mexican cartels smuggling their drugs into the United States from South Texas," said Glaspy.

Still, a huge part of the problem with drug addiction and overdoses is not from counterfeits but from real prescription drugs.

"More prescription drugs are abused than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, P2P and LSD combined," said Glaspy.

To counter the problem, the DEA is starting a first-of-its-kind initiative to help educate kids about the dangers and steer them towards a healthy lifestyle. The DEA will hold its first ever "Youth Can Fly" event at Lone Star College Flight Museum Friday morning where kids from a couple of schools will not only get to enjoy the museum exhibits but also learn leadership and drug abuse prevention.

"From a parent's perspective one of the concerns we have is that the kids look at pills as just medication," said Glaspy. "They don't look at it as a drug."