Deadly form of fentanyl found in counterfeit pill seizures in North Texas, DEA says

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A fentanyl-like drug that killed a former Southlake Carroll High School baseball star in June has been found in other counterfeit pills seized in North Texas, according DEA officials

Para-fluorofentanyl is a somewhat new fentanyl-like drug that is adding fuel to a raging opioid epidemic in North Texas and across the country.

Nicco Cole, 20, was found to have para-fluorofentanyl and benzodiazepines in his system when he died June 25 at his family’s home in Colleyville, according to a ruling by officials with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. His death was ruled an accident.

The ruling on his death was released last week after completion of toxicology and other tests took more than five months.

The exact number of deaths linked to para-fluorofentanyl in North Texas was not available on Tuesday.

But the drug apparently has found a home in North Texas.

“Para-fluorofentanyl has been found in submissions of counterfeit pills in North Texas,” said Cynthia Velazquez, a DEA specialist in the Dallas Field Division, in a Tuesday email.

In Pennsylvania, Allegheny County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams has found para-fluorofentanyl in the bodies of 75 people who’ve overdosed in the county in 2021 — up from zero last year, according to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh

The para-fluorofentanyl was mixed in with a batch of heroin, according to Pennsylvania authorities.

Velazquez said para-fluorofentanyl is a controlled substance that currently has no accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and it has a high potential for abuse.

Para-fluorofentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is made in laboratories, some produced in powder form and others in tablets, mimicking legal pharmaceutical opioid products. At times, the drug could be mixed with with other illegal drugs such as heroin, according to the DEA.

Here’s some information on counterfeit pills from the DEA:

Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills to deceive Americans.

Counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, often contain fentanyl or methamphetamine, and can be deadly.

Fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms — making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including teens and young adults.

Many counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and alprazolam (Xanax); or stimulants/ amphetamines like Adderall.

More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized this year. That’s more than the last two years combined, according to DEA statistics.

Counterfeit pills have been identified in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In Colleyville, police are investigating the case, but no one has been arrested.

Cole had helped Southlake Carroll to a Class 6A state baseball championship in 2018.

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