Medically Reviewed

Should You Be Worried About Counterfeit Xanax?

- 4 sections

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Counterfeit Xanax pills can look exactly like the real thing. They may have the same color, size, shape, pharmaceutical markings, and imprint on the pill as the prescription ones do. While the difference may be unnoticeable to the naked eye, there is one stark difference between real and fake Xanax: the latter usually contains fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid that may cause an accidental overdose.

People who sell drugs don’t sell drugs because they enjoy breaking the law. They sell drugs because they want to earn a profit. As such, making drugs cheaper and more potent is a sure-fire way to generate more profit from a smaller amount of product. Thus comes the idea of counterfeit drugs – substances that are produced to look, feel, and taste like another substance, but contain any number of additional additives and toxins, and are able to be sold at a fraction of the price compared to the real thing.

The main problem with counterfeit drugs is that they are usually laced with extremely harmful substances, such as rat poison, bleach, formaldehyde, and/or fentanyl. Unfortunately, many drug users don’t recognize how dangerous abusing these types of substances really is. Let’s take a deeper look into fake Xanax pills, how they are made, and why they are so dangerous.

How People Use Pill Pressing To Make Fake Xanax

Counterfeit Xanax is made using a pill press. A pill press is a device that is used to press powder together, in combination with a binding agent, to make a powdered substance into a solid pill form. Pill pressing devices can be smaller than the size of a person’s palm or as large enough to need a small room for storage. Then, a pill mold is added to the pill press to press pills into certain sizes or with certain markings/indentations. Manufacturers will also use so-called “stamps” to ingrain the pharmaceutical markings on the pill.

Currently, it isn’t illegal to own a pill press. In fact, there are some people who use pill presses to make their own vitamins at supplements at home – and that’s perfectly fine! However, it is illegal to own a pill mold that is used in a pill press. As a result, counterfeit pill molds are usually designed in other countries and sold to the U.S. as “spare parts” or “equipment.” This allows street dealers and manufacturers to purchase their supplies without gaining attention from the police and make fake drugs in their homes.[1]

Most fake Xanax pills are cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than heroin and morphine, respectively. Fentanyl is a schedule II substance, meaning it can be prescribed by a doctor for patients struggling with severe or chronic pain. Still, it is such a potent and dangerous drug that the DEA has advised officials to take extra protective precautions simply when handling the substance. [2] Unfortunately, many street-level dealers get their hands on this substance and use it to “cut” other drugs, making them cheaper and more potent.

The Dangers of Buying and Using Counterfeit Xanax

A drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine is no joke. People who take fentanyl accidentally will be unaware of what they have taken or how much, so they face a serious risk of an opioid overdose. Plus, even if a person is aware that their Xanax is laced with fentanyl, they won’t know how much fentanyl is in it or exactly how potent that fentanyl is. As a result, it is extremely easy to overdose after consuming counterfeit Xanax pills.

Since the pills may look exactly like the real thing, it’s often impossible to know whether a Xanax pill purchase on the street is real or fake. People who consume a fake substance that is laced with fentanyl, however, will experience certain symptoms and side effects that they would not experience had they only taken Xanax. Side effects of fentanyl include:[2]

Fentanyl side effects

  • Excessive itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Flushed skin

As previously mentioned, consuming too much fentanyl can lead to an overdose. If someone is overdosing on fentanyl or Xanax, it’s critical to seek emergency medical attention. Signs and symptoms of a fentanyl overdose are:[3]

Fentanyl Overdose

  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Gurgling or choking sounds
  • Pale, blue, cold, or clammy skin
  • Limp body or unresponsiveness
  • Suppressed breathing

When someone purchases , they ultimately have no idea what they are getting. While it could be real, it could just as well be fake. Additionally, abusing Xanax by itself is dangerous enough. can lead to physical dependence, addiction, cravings, and more. When laced with an even more potent substance like fentanyl, Xanax becomes substantially more dangerous, addictive, and lethal.

Fake Xanax By The Numbers

Since counterfeit Xanax pills are sold illegally and there is no national database to collect information on them, the statistics behind the people affected by the fake pills varies greatly. To reiterate the dangers of purchasing and consuming Xanax that may be laced with other substances, consider the following.

  • In 2018, 25% of drug overdose deaths in Northern Ireland were caused by counterfeit Xanax.[4]
  • In the first four months of 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized 27 shipments (over 35 lbs) of counterfeit Xanax.[5]
  • Over the last two years, U.S. public health officials have warned of a dramatic increase in fentanyl and Xanax related overdoses.[6]

How to Avoid Buying Counterfeit Xanax

The easiest way to avoid purchasing fake Xanax is to never purchase the drug on the streets in the first place. In fact, the only reason anyone should ever take Xanax in the first place is if they have a prescription for it and are instructed to by their doctor. Unfortunately, some people who are prescribed the medication seek out cheaper ways to fill their prescription, such as purchasing it from shady online pharmacies or from overseas stores. Doing so runs the risk of coming across more counterfeit Xanax. As a result, if you have a Xanax prescription, you should always get it filled at a licensed pharmacy.

If you are someone who is and is purchasing it on the streets, it’s time to consider getting help. At PAX Memphis, we know how difficult it can be to admit you have a drug problem. However, purchasing illegal Xanax can ultimately cost you your life – a price tag that can never be repaid. We can help you get through your withdrawals easily and learn new ways to cope without intoxicating and harmful substances. Call us today to let us help you get started on your recovery journey.