December 6, 2021: Fake captagon pills have become Syria’s biggest export

According to the New York Times, the Assad regime in Syria has become an international supplier of counterfeit “captagon” pills. So far this year, authorities around the world have seized more than 250 million of the amphetamine pills, which mimic a medication that was banned in late 1980s. The multibillion dollar industry is larger than all of Syria’s legal exports.

The Times also covered the continued prevalence of counterfeit and substandard N95 and KN95 masks on the U.S. market: “Consumers who try to purchase N95 masks, mainly on Amazon, are often led to vendors selling fake or poorly made KN95s.”

Source: New York Times (Click to see a larger image.)


Two residents of Malden, Massachusetts are facing charges for drug trafficking after search of their home yielded illicit drugs, including nearly 10,000 Adderall or Xanax pills suspected to contain methamphetamine and thousands of fentanyl pills pressed to resemble oxycodone.

A man in Owings Mills, Maryland has been charged with selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. A criminal complaint alleges that he bought over 600 of the cards through a foriegn marketplace and advertised them on social media platforms for $75 each.


An employee of a South Carolina skilled nursing and rehabilitation center was indicted on federal charges for allegedly creating false COVID-19 vaccination cards.


The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center warned that fentanyl pills disguised as alprazolam and oxycodone were being sold to Ohioans.

In Indiana, the Madison County Health Department warned that counterfeit pills were fueling fentanyl poisoning deaths in the county.

30 people in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida are facing charges for distributing meth and fentanyl in Indiana and Kentucky.  Law enforcement seized large quantities of meth and fentanyl, over $300,000 and a pill press during this investigation.

The West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team warned that it had seen an uptick in counterfeit Adderall pills made with methamphetamine. Law enforcement seized 28,000  of the pills and a pill press during two busts in August and October.

Families who have lost loved ones to fake pills continue to raise awareness about the dangers.

This week’s news covered:

  • PSM Advisory Board member and Voices for Awareness founder Andrea Thomas, whose daughter Ashley died in Grand Junction, Colorado in 2018 after taking just part of a counterfeit oxycodone.
  • Gilroy, California residents Geralyn Vasquez and Lisa Marquez, whose sons Jacob and Fernando died after taking counterfeit Xanax in 2020.
  • Illinois resident Dean Jeske, whose son Peter died at Indiana University in April.
  • Megan Macintosh in Arizona, who lost her son Chase in January 2021.
  • Song for Charlie’s Jennifer and Jon Epstein in Oregon and Ed and Mary Ternan in California who raise awareness because of their respective sons, Cal and Charlie.

Are you grappling with how to talk to teenagers about fentanyl? We have gathered a few resources, including  suggestions from Public Health—Seattle and King County, Washington, which were published this week.

Mountain West

A Colorado grand jury indicted 19 people in connection with a multi-state drug trafficking ring. During the eight-month investigation, law enforcement in the Denver metro area seized 110,000 fentanyl pills, 45 pounds of other illicit drugs, and $450,000 in cash hidden in houses, apartments and cars.

A woman in Missoula, Montana has been charged with meth and fentanyl trafficking. A criminal complaint alleges that she received packages of 30,000 and 40,000 fentanyl pills in the mail.

Pacific West

​​Bradley Woolard of Arlington, Washington received a 20-year prison sentence for leading a drug trafficking ring that distributed hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills in Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties. Co-defendants, Anthony Pelayo and Jerome Isham were sentenced last week.

Officers in Seattle, Washington seized illicit drugs, including over 100 fentanyl pills, and arrested six men who were allegedly dealing downtown, in Belltown and in the Chinatown-International District.

Law enforcement in Butte County, California warned about a rise in opioid deaths and a pink pain pill marked K56 that “seems to be responsible for a high number of deaths and overdoses.”

Pink pills like those found in Butte County, California advertised on Tumblr in November 2021.


A doctor in Germany administered COVID-19 vaccines he had invented himself at an unauthorized vaccination drive at Lübeck airport. 50 people received the shots before police arrived to shut the operation down.