There’s an epidemic of fake prescription drugs sweeping the US, and it’s killing people. Americans are now more likely to die of an opioid overdose than in a car wreck or of a gunshot wound. Drug agencies are saying that fentanyl is the biggest reason for this sudden new trend. Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller powerful enough to kill in a single dose, and black market drug manufacturers are using it as a cheap way to make their drugs stronger. You don’t know whether the pill in your hand contains it or not. That’s why some people are calling it “the kill pill.” It’s in your community right now, so it’s time to get the word out.
What is an Opioid?
An opioid is a man-made type of opium. Opium is a painkilling drug that comes from poppy resin, which is also what heroin is made from. Opioid painkillers block pain receptors in the brain, so many people with injuries get prescriptions for pills like Percocet, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Norco, etc. These medicines drive up levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine in your brain to dull pain from injuries. That’s also why people take them to get high.
The problem is, your brain is smart. As soon as it realizes that the opioid levels are higher than natural all the time, it tries to correct the imbalance, so it stops producing as much dopamine. Now the user has to take opioid drugs just to feel normal. In other words, they are hooked, and they have to keep taking more to get the same feeling. If they stop without a doctor’s help, the body goes into a painful and dangerous withdrawal. It’s basically heroin without a needle.
If it’s Medication, Why Does it Kill you?
Opioids relax the body, slowing the heartbeat and rate of breathing. Sound good? Not if they slow to a full stop and you go into cardiac arrest. If you take too much, you can die from legal prescription drugs the same way you can die from an overdose of heroin. Now imagine that you just took a pill someone told you would make you feel good, but you don’t actually know where it came from or what is in it. Now imagine that it contains just 2 mg of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller that is 100 times stronger than heroin. The amount of fentanyl it will take to kill you is just 2 mg. That is such a tiny amount that it is very easy to make a mistake. Drug agencies say that it is being made in China and shipped to the US via Mexico, where it is mixed with other drugs and also used to lace heroin. Black market pill makers can buy pill presses that will make pills that look legitimate. The workers making these pills are not registered pharmacists, and may not know or care what the formula is supposed to be. They’ll probably never be held responsible if their mistakes kill someone.
Most people have heard that the artist Prince died from an overdose of prescription pills. What the coroner actually found is that there were hydrocodone pills in his home which tested positive for fentanyl and that he died from fentanyl toxicity. He died from taking fake prescription pills. As doctors try to reduce opioid prescriptions, even for valid pain control, people turn to illegal sources.
How Can You Tell If Prescription Drugs are Fake?
You usually can’t tell. Illegal pill presses can make a legitimate looking pill out of anything. Nine people died in Sacramento County, California, from taking just one fake Norco pill. Your best bet is to just play it straight. If the pills didn’t come from your doctor’s prescription for the temporary relief of your severe pain, don’t take it. Don’t buy or accept pills from friends.
What Can I Do If I See Somebody Overdosing?
People who overdose on opioid painkillers will be non-responsive, have a slow heartbeat, slow, shallow breathing, and may have bluish lips. That’s plenty enough reason to call 911, even if you’re not sure it’s an overdose. Emergency paramedics now carry a drug called Naloxone with them that can save the life of the victim if given in time.
But Not in My Town, Right?
Prescription drug abuse is everywhere. The typical abuser is young and white and may have started by stealing his or her dad’s legitimate pain medication.
Painkillers became easily available because doctors were writing too many prescriptions for pain pills all over the country. People became hooked on drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet. When public awareness of the problem caused doctors to cut back, it was too late.
When people couldn’t get the pills legally, they got them illegally. That gave prescription pain pills street value, so now criminals bring in black market pills, most spiked with fentanyl from China, through Mexico, and into your town and your school.
Deaths from pill overdoses are exploding; Ohio went from 92 deaths in 2015 to 514 deaths in 2016, Maryland went from 58 deaths in 2015 to 185 deaths in 2016, and the list goes on.
I Can’t Get in Actual Legal Trouble though, Right?
Sorry. Abuse of prescription drugs is illegal. It’s abuse if you are taking pills to get high. How will you get caught? Probably by being pulled over for erratic driving; a DUI is not just for alcohol. If you are a minor, get ready to become a regular at the Department of Youth Services. They take prescription drug abuse, fake or legal, very seriously. If you are an adult, you now have a record.
If you need medication, see a doctor; not a dealer. If somebody offers you pills, remember they could contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Becoming a junkie and having a drug record could be the least of your problems.
Anson, P. (April 2, 2016) DEA Warns of Fake Fentanyl Pills. Pain News Network. Retrieved from painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2016/4/2/dea-warns-about-fake-fentanyl-pain-pills
Heise, S. (Jan 2017) Another Death, More Overdoses from Disguised Fentanyl Pills. Retrieved from kcra.com/article/another-death-more-overdoses-from-disguised-fentanyl-pills/6427948
The Partnership for Safe Medicines. (June 2017 ) Counterfeit Pills Laced With Fentanyl Are Ravaging Communities Across North America. Retrieved from safemedicines.org/fentanyl-pills-ravaging-american-communities
Sidener, S., and Simon, M., (August 26, 2016) Prince’s Death and the Growing Fear of the “Kill Pill.” CNN. Retrieved from edition.cnn.com/2016/08/26/health/prince-minnesota-fentanyl-counterfeit-pills/