Fake pills influence historic overdose rates in Ohio / Public Information Service

ByDonald L. Leech

Jun 13, 2022

Ohio’s overdose crisis has been strongly linked to the use of prescription painkillers or heroin, but that’s no longer the case. Health officials are now warning that historic levels of overdose deaths are being exacerbated by the availability of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, a potent and deadly synthetic drug.

Shabbir Imber Safdar, executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, said fake pills are being sold as prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, the anxiety drug Xanax and stimulant drugs.

“There are a lot of young people taking Adderall, and they’re not particularly careful where they get their pills,” Safdar pointed out. “I think we’re going to see an increase in deaths in the 16-24 age group from fake Adderall made with fentanyl.”

In May, two Ohio State University students died from alleged use of fake Adderall pills containing fentanyl. Ohio is expected to report more than 5,200 overdose deaths for 2021, up from just 327 in 1999.

Counterfeit drugs are usually sold on social media, on hidden dark web sites, or in person by someone pretending they are real. Safdar noted that about four in 10 fentanyl pills contain a potentially lethal dose.

“Even the first fake pill you take can kill you because if it has too much fentanyl in it, you don’t have time to get addicted, that first pill will kill you,” Safdar pointed out. “So it’s really a game of Russian roulette when you take one of these pills that doesn’t come from a pharmacy, which is the only safe source.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a public safety alert regarding the increased lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl, and encourages people to use only prescription drugs as directed by a healthcare professional and issued by a licensed pharmacist.

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