The U.S. State Department has issued yet another warning for U.S. citizens with plans to visit Mexico.
Previous warnings noted that violent crime is “common” in Mexico. This time, however, the warning is that Americans should “exercise caution when purchasing medication in Mexico,” the State Department explains.
“Counterfeit prescription pills are sold by criminals on both sides of the border,” the State Department warned in a travel advisory first posted by the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico.
“These pills are sometimes represented as OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and others, and may contain deadly doses of fentanyl,” the State Department continues. “Counterfeit pills are readily advertised on social media and can be purchased at small, non-chain pharmacies in Mexico along the border and in tourist areas.”
That’s possible because both over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, as well as those requiring a prescription in the U.S., are often readily available for purchase in Mexico with little regulation, according to the State Department. These counterfeit pharmaceuticals are common and may be ineffective, the incorrect strength, or even contain dangerous and possibly lethal ingredients.
A Dangerous Trend
Perhaps not surprisingly, research led by the University of California Los Angeles, found that 68 percent of 40 Mexican pharmacies visited in four northern Mexico cities sold oxycodone, Xanax, or Adderall, according to the Associated Press. What’s more, 27 percent of those pharmacies were selling fake pills.
The study, which was published earlier this year, found that “brick and mortar pharmacies in northern Mexican tourist towns are selling counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine,” the Associated Press continues. These pills are sold mainly to U.S. tourists and are often passed off as oxycodone, Percocet, and Adderall.
“These counterfeit pills represent a serious overdose risk to buyers who think they are getting a known quantity of a weaker drug,” said Chelsea Shover, assistant professor-in-residence of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the Associated Press reports.
Making the situation even more troubling, anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem exists in border cities but also in beach resort areas such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Know If You Do Decide To Go
The State Department’s warning about dangerous counterfeit pharmaceuticals comes after it previously warned U.S. citizens that “violent crime — such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery — is widespread and common in Mexico.”
That warning was followed by the Texas Department of Public Safety urging Texans to avoid traveling to Mexico due to the ongoing violence throughout areas of the country.
“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat to anyone who crosses into Mexico right now,” Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement.
If you do plan to travel to Mexico, the State Department recommends that medication should only “be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.” It also recommends that U.S. citizens with prescription medicine carry a copy of their prescription or doctor’s letter while traveling in Mexico.
Finally, the State Department also notes that while traveling in Mexico, U.S. citizens are subject to Mexican law and authorities can arrest individuals with illegal substances — even if those substances are legal in the U.S. For example, Sudafed may be an over-the-counter, legal drug in the U.S., but pseudoephedrine, its active ingredient, is an illegal controlled substance in Mexico, the State Department continues.
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