Attorney General Jason Miyares announced a “One Pill Can Kill” awareness campaign over the risks of fentanyl and counterfeit drugs to try to launch conversations among families ahead of the holidays.
“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on our Commonwealth. There isn’t a corner of our state that hasn’t been touched by its pain and destruction. Tragically, overdose deaths are now not limited to addiction, but to counterfeit pills laced with a highly potent, deadly substance – fentanyl,” Miyares said in a press release Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many young people overdose and die after experimenting with these powerful drugs. As a father, this new threat terrifies me. That’s why I launched ‘One Pill Can Kill,’ a public awareness initiative aimed at generating conversations around the dangers of counterfeit drugs and fentanyl.”
Miyares said the U.S. has had over 105,000 overdoses in the last year.
“And we look at those numbers and it’s hard to contextualize it. That is the equivalent of two Vietnam wars in twelve months,” he said in a press conference.
A fact sheet shared by his office reports that overdoses are the leading cause of death in Virginian since 2013, and fentanyl contributed to 76.4 percent of overdoses in Virginia in 2021. Additionally, an estimated 98 percent of fatal fentanyl overdoses were caused by the illegal, not prescription versions of the drug.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration warns that drug dealers lace other drugs with fentanyl because it is cheap and powerful, but warns that depending on body size, two milligrams is a lethal dose.
“DEA analysis has found counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice the lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet,” the DEA reports.
As part of the campaign, Miyares points Virginians to U.S. government site getsmartaboutdrugs.com, which reported Monday, “The DEA Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of ten now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. This is an increase from DEA’s previous announcement in 2021 that four out of ten fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills were found to contain a potentially lethal dose.”
Miyares said his office is combating the opioid crisis in part through prosecution, warning of the risks of drugs trafficked from Mexico. He also touted his office’s partnership with federal authorities and cited Special Assistant United States Attorney M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen’s prosecution of a man convicted on drug-trafficking related charges; Kerney-Quillen is a senior assistant attorney general in Miyares’ office who is cross-designated with the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
But Miyares said his office also focuses on prevention, not just prosecution.
“We obviously don’t want to get to that stage. If there are drug dealers, we’re going to go after them. But for those that are dealing with the cycle of addiction its about prevention,” he said.
First Lady Suzanne Youngkin accompanied Miyares at a press conference.
“The timing is very intentional,” she said. “We did it today on the eve of the period of Thanksgiving and we wanted to focus on all of the sweetness that happens in our state, but also the seriousness of this particular topic.”
The campaign includes a PSA featuring Miyares that will run on Virginia televisions for 60 days.
“Every day a silent killer murders four Virginians: drug overdoses,” he said in the advertisement. “To keep our loved ones safe, we have to talk to them about the dangers of drugs. Whether it’s opioids, heroin, or counterfeits laced with fentanyl, we all play a role in building safe and healthy futures for ourselves and our children. So do your part, be their protector, because one pill can kill.”
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