By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Just one pill can kill. That’s the warning from law enforcement after at least six deadly overdoses this month involving fake prescription pills.

Three years ago, investigators took 1,500 counterfeit pills off the streets in Minnesota. That’s climbed to 7,400 this year, so far.

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Nikky Tierney started taking pain pills as high school student in Hudson, believing it was a safer way to use drugs.

“It’s just an easy thing to just pop in your mouth and not think about,” Tierney said.

Sadly, the addiction cost four of her friends their lives in the 10 years since.

“I just assumed they wouldn’t give me something that would kill me and that’s absolutely not the case,” Tierney said.

She now works at a sober high school showing others a way out.

Angela Von Trytek is Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the DEA in Minneapolis, St. Paul’s District Office.

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“I really do believe the conversation has to start at home and then it has to be reinforced at school,” Von Trytek said.

She transferred to the district more than a year ago from Florida.

“Frankly, I was shocked at the number of drugs and the amounts we’re seizing in Minnesota,” Von Trytek said.

Mankato and St. Paul police issued warnings this month after an increase in overdose deaths were tied to counterfeit pills.

The differences are difficult to spot: While this oxycodone is real, the front and back of the fakes look similar with potentially deadly consequences.

“When it’s being manufactured illicitly down in Mexico there’s no quality control going on with these transnational criminal organizations,” Von Trytek said. “I think we are looking at one in every four pills we seize has a lethal dose of fentanyl in it.”

The health department is also reporting a near-20% spike in non-fatal overdoses during the pandemic. More than 7,000 people were treated in ER’s for an overdose. Nearly 60% were tied to opioids and other stimulants.

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For more on starting the conversation in your classroom, click here.

Liz Collin