When One Pill Kills

Parents are mourning children poisoned by deadly pills bought on Snapchat

NBC News

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt of an NBC News story, part of its "One Nation Overdosed" series, that can be read in its entirety here.

In the last few years there has been a wave of deaths among teens and young adults who bought what they believed to be a prescription pill — like a Percocet, an OxyContin or a Xanax — that turned out to be a counterfeit pill containing a deadly dose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid a hundred times more potent than morphine. 

Many of those pills are being traded openly via social media, particularly on Snapchat, the most popular app among U.S. teens. Snapchat has been linked to the sale of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills that have caused the deaths of teens and young adults in at least 15 statesaccording to The Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit public health group. NBC News independently confirmed deaths in 14 of the 15 states and identified five additional states not included in the research.

Manufactured by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, these counterfeit pills look like legitimate prescription medicines. But 2 in 5 counterfeit pills seized and tested in the United States contain enough fentanyl to kill, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In October, Snap is hosting a summit with hundreds of law enforcement officials from across the country to educate them about Snapchat, help them prepare data requests that allow Snap to respond quickly and improve lines of communication. 

NBC News talked to eight parents whose children’s deaths have been linked to the sale of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills. Read their stories and the full report here on NBCNews.com

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