Counterfeit Prescription Pills Are Causing Deadly Overdoses

Counterfeit prescription drugs.

It used to be that if someone took a pharmaceutical pill they knew exactly what it was and how much of the drug was in it. These days people can never be too careful because the prevalence of counterfeit pills is on the rise. The people creating these pills have become so successful at making them look genuine that it has become near impossible to tell them apart from the real thing. According to Douglas Rohde who is the Supervisor of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Lake County Crime Lab in Ohio “You can put them side by side and can’t tell the difference. Now the quality is so professional that not even the pharmaceutical companies that produce them can tell what is produced illicitly.”

It is common knowledge that taking prescription pills other than prescribed can have life-threatening consequences. We have begun to see the effects of this in the United States on a catastrophic scale. What isn’t as well known is that while many of these pills on the street look like common opioids or benzodiazepines they actually contain lethal amounts of fentanyl. Because fentanyl is so powerful it only takes a small amount to kill the average person. Even people who have a high tolerance for opioids can easily overdose on this drug.

Deaths from these counterfeit pills have been skyrocketing. Illicitly produced fentanyl and its even deadlier relative carfentanil have been major contributors to the high overdose rates seen in the United States. These drugs are also making their way into other street drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. Since a person never knows what they are actually getting while purchasing drugs or pills off the street they are playing Russian roulette with their lives every time they decide to use.

Pills abuse.

This has become a game changer for not only addicts but for the “casual user” as well. It has long been known that you never really know what you are getting while purchasing street drugs. The white powder that someone says is cocaine actually contains several other substances as well. The purity is decreased so that the profit margins are increased. This is part of the reason so many people have had the false assumption that buying pharmaceutical pills was somehow a safer alternative. In the past pills usually contained what the person said they did and the bogus ones were easy to spot; that is not the case anymore.

Although the life saving opioid overdose medication Narcan has become more widely available, it has a hard time stacking up against the heavy hitters fentanyl and carfentanil. More Narcan is required to revive a person from a fentanyl overdose than a heroin or oxycodone overdose. Carfentanil, which was made to be used on large animals such as elephants, is so toxic for humans that it doesn’t even always work to reverse the drug’s effects. Because of this, it is now the most dangerous time in history to be using drugs or to be an addict.

The most important thing to learn from all of this is that even a casual user can overdose just as easily as an addict. Many people have the false assumption that only addicts overdose and die from drugs. This is simply not true and is a dangerous lie. It only takes one overdose to potentially end a life.

Working Toward a Solution

Due to the large amounts of dangerous drugs on the streets, it is now more essential than ever to talk to our youth about the risks of using illicit drugs. We can’t just rely on the outdated “just say no” approach because it is very clear that method doesn’t work. We need to have authentic conversations with teens and children about the real consequences of drug use and actually show them how it has been destroying so many lives.

Many communities have already begun to take the right steps toward making Narcan more accessible to the general public. This is a good place to start but more places need to join in on training people when and how to administer this life-saving medicine. This has become a controversial topic because many people argue that they shouldn’t be responsible for helping saving someone from an overdose. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter it still comes down to saving a life. It may take someone several overdoses before they are willing and able to make a change but without those second chances, they would have already been dead before they even had the opportunity to do so.

The last aspect of addressing this issue is that more treatment options need to become available for those who are already caught up in drug abuse. Only by helping people address the physical, mental and emotional aspects of their addiction can we truly help them find their way to recovery.




After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.