Why fake prescription pills are prompting alerts here, elsewhere

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 1:10 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Drug Enforcement Administration on Monday issued a public safety alert warning of the rising danger and availability of fake prescription pills like the ones that have been a problem in the CSRA.

Due in part to pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine but that look just like authentic prescription drugs, overdose deaths are on the rise, authorities said. And the statistics prompted the DEA’s first public safety alert in six years.

Months ago, authorities warned that the Richmond County was one of the worst problem spots in Georgia for the counterfeit pills.

But the problem isn’t just here at this point. Bogus pills have been seized in every state, including more than 9.5 million so far this year, more than the past two years combined.

DEA lab testing reveals a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at a lethal dose of 2 milligrams of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s far more potent than heroin. A lethal dose will fit on the tip of a pencil.

Our I-Team found earlier this year that 70 percent of lethal drug overdoses in Richmond County had involved fentanyl. Across the river in Aiken County, 80 percent in 2020 involved the drug.

Counterfeit pills are a growing problem in the U.S.
Counterfeit pills are a growing problem in the U.S.(WRDW)

The pills are manufactured illegally and without regulation and passed off as prescription medications and sold on the street. They often look very much like the legitimate pills, including logos and markings.

But unlike legitimate drug manufacturing, there’s no quality control or regulation, so you don’t know what you’re getting or how high the dose truly is.

“You might have one pill that has a trace amount of fentanyl, and another pill out the same bowl might have a larger amount of fentanyl,” said a Burke County investigator we spoke to several weeks ago.

“You don’t know what you’re getting. The drug dealer might market it as 1 mg Xanax, but in reality, it could be fentanyl they pressed to resemble Xanax,” said the investigator.

Counterfeit pills look a lot like the rea things,
Counterfeit pills look a lot like the rea things,(WRDW)

The vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico

But some pills are made locally. Two Burke County men were sentenced to prison several months ago after authorities say the men were operating an illegal pill press.

Cedrick Gabriel Brown, a/k/a “Pop,” 47, and Telly Savalas Carswell, 46, both of Midville, were charged after the DEA began an investigation with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office. A May 7 search of a home yielded a pill press along with methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs, nearly $9,000 in cash, and paraphernalia related to drug trafficking, according to prosecutors.

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