09 Aug How Counterfeit Pills Are Getting into Georgia
Georgia, A Mecca for Drugs
The state of Georgia is no stranger to the hardship brought forth by America’s benzo drug crisis. From opioids, heroin, cocaine, meth, to the deadliest substances we hear about on the news like the different types of fentanyl and bath salts, there is no shortage of illicit substances within their borders. The issue is that Georgia is a massive state which borders others like Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Florida.
The expansive highway system and accessibility to other regions render it a perfect railway for drug trafficking. Cartels and drug mules tend to view Atlanta as a hub for export, one where they can not only use for the sale of their merchandise but an offloading stop before exporting to the surrounding states. Now there is even a major drug crisis in Atlanta’s suburbs.
Thus, it’s no surprise that Georgia is infested with notorious street drugs of today’s time and that they’re witnessing a massive upswing in overdoses, addiction rates, and teenage drug abuse in the state of Georgia. With the baseline being all problems related to drugs and addiction, a new evil has surfaced from the impact opioids has had on Georgia resulting in counterfeit pills.
What Are Counterfeit Pills?
As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage America, we’re witnessing a paradigm shift in the type of drugs manifested in the black market. One, heroin is making a massive comeback—being that it’s from the opiate family and a cheaper alternative than an opioid addiction. Two, counterfeit pills are being cooked up in black market laboratories and sold in batches on the street.
Drug dealers, cartels, and traffickers are well aware that addiction is birthed both outside and inside of the doctor’s office. They know too that some addicts—particularly those that began with a real prescription, may not be so daring as to try street-made heroin as an alternative. Their solution is to manufacture fake pills but market them as the real thing.
Today, in Georgia, Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, and just about any other popular opioid or benzodiazepine can be found on the streets. Being that it takes some degree of chemistry to create and then press these pills, they’re not cheap. A single pill can cost upwards of $30, and many addicts need more than that daily to sustain their ailment.
Commonsense should be all that’s needed not to trust a non-licensed chemist making painkillers in his garage, but addiction is a vicious disease, one that is as blinding as it is malicious. Considering the lack of skill and care of these street chemists, it should be no surprise that these counterfeit pills can send the grim reaper to a community.
Counterfeit pills, by their very nature, are extremely dangerous. Being that they’re made in black market labs, there is no one regulating the product, meaning if they mix up a batch with too high of potency, overdose can occur. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence, plenty of victims have lost their lives because the pill they thought they were taking, was 10 or even 20 times the strength of what they’re used to.
Despite counterfeit pills being dangerous by their very design, the introduction of fentanyl has made them absolutely lethal. Fentanyl is an opioid 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s commonly used for late-stage cancer patients, after invasive surgeries, and for patients nearing their end with chronic pain.
It’s not a common prescription and sadly, it’s primarily used as a blanket for terminal patients. Due to its sheer strength, however, drug dealers have begun to import the drug from illegal labs in China, as well as hire bootleg chemists to produce it domestically. It stepped into the picture around two years ago, where mass overdose in isolated areas—all occurring simultaneously—made law enforcement investigate these obscure patterns.
It was first mixed with heroin, as a touch of fentanyl could turn a horrible, tar-like batch of the drug into one of the most coveted drugs in a community. Accordingly, dealers and cartels discovered that by simply supplementing a bit of fentanyl into their heroin, they could increase profit margins by selling the lowest quality substances at a higher price. In which, a massive push to spread fentanyl through the US spread the drug like wildfire.
How does this relate to counterfeit pills?
Unfortunately, as more and more dealers were able to get their hands on fentanyl, the opioid began to find its way into everything. Now, you might think that fentanyl was appropriately cut into drugs that were at least somewhat akin to its molecular structure. Substances like painkillers, heroin, etc. However, that’s not the case.
Today we’re seeing the depressant in cocaine, counterfeit benzodiazepines, methamphetamines, bath salts, and an array of other illicit drugs that juxtapose the molecular structure of the opioid, causing a fentanyl overdose to occur. Often, mixing a stimulant with a suppressant can cause a body to fail. Now consolidate that phenomenon into a single pill, ingested at once, and the risk intensifies.
The worst part is that many who are taking these counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl live in complete ignorance. For example, if there’s a Xanax addict taking to the streets for counterfeit pills, and someone sells him one, then he’s going to assume its Xanax. The effects are going to be calming, his heart rate will slow, and he won’t experience any stimulation.
What if the pill was cut with fentanyl? This Xanax addict who never dabbles in opioids—meaning he has zero tolerance—will only need the slightest amount to overdose. This exact phenomenon is occurring all over the country and addicts—even recreational users—are losing their lives because they don’t know what’s in the drugs they’re taking.
Georgia and Counterfeit Pills
To speak towards the last section, in November 2017, more than two dozen patients were rushed to the hospital in Macon, Georgia, within a 48 hour period. The symptoms that brought forth the patients ranged from organ failure and sepsis to stroke and respiratory failure. Long story short: in the span of two days, the county witnessed over 25 overdoses.
This, of course, is simply abnormal. Law enforcement stepped in to do some investigating and lo and behold, each case was linked specifically to a batch of counterfeit Percocet that hit the streets the day before the overdoses began to pile in. These fake, amalgam of Percocet were cut with fentanyl, and the chemist who had done the dirty work made a horrible error in their potency. From the average user, recreational, to the hard-worn veteran addict, no one could sustain the power of a single pill.
Since 2017, these isolated, mass-overdoses have been taking counties by storm. Millions upon millions of dollars’ worth of fentanyl has been seized across the country, some of which made its way all the way to New York. And worst yet, being that some states seize more than 50,000 pills annually, black market chemists have learned how to color and brand a pill so that it looks identical to the real thing.
This illusion is so wicked, that dealers in possession of counterfeit pills cut with fentanyl or fentanyl alone—in some counties—are being tried with attempted murder and murder charges.
Which leaves us with the counterfeit pills of today, which aren’t necessarily victimizing the heroin addicts we’ve seen in the movies, but the parents and community role models we’d never imagine to have a narcotic problem. Two of those that overdosed in Macon bought the pills to cure pain they were dealing with from work but didn’t want to see a doctor.
In that event alone, 4 people died from an overdose.
How Counterfeit Pills are Getting into Georgia
The George Bureau of Investigation dropped statistics on over 100 different counterfeit pills they tested—and some were so realistic that even those doing the testing had a difficult time discerning them from FDA approved medication.
The areas affected most by these counterfeit pills are metro Atlanta, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Carroll counties. The most common type of pill that’s cut with fentanyl—or at least those that are the most dangerous—are opioids. This is supported by our aforementioned Percocet case that occurred in Macon.
This then begs the question: where exactly are these pills coming from? Unfortunately, this answer remains to be a bit of a mystery. But there are certain speculations. Rather than having counterfeit pills brought in from Mexico, or bought illegally through the black market of the web, experts think the pills are being manufactured in their backyard; right inside the state of Georgia.
Illegal labs in China have found a way to mass produce counterfeit fentanyl—at times engineering batches that are four times as strong as the already lethal predecessor. In which, it is entirely possible that black market chemists living in Georgia are importing small amounts of fentanyl and other chemicals, then using it to engineer counterfeit pills.
These counterfeit pills usually hit a certain area in batches but it’s rare that the same molecular structure appears in other areas. You can deduce then, that the fake Percocet which reaped havoc on Macon was made by someone in close proximity to the area.
This makes the problem harder to solve, as it’s not about upping security for those trafficking through Georgia, or upping the response teams responsible for intercepting them, but locating where these hidden labs are cooking up fake pills. If this was an easy task, we’d see a large volume of arrests targeting dealers, manufacturers, and traffickers.
In May of this year, in Roswell, a city outside of Atlanta, a Georgia woman was sentenced to three years of federal prison for selling Oxycodone laced with fentanyl to an undercover DEA agent. They raided her house only to find the money from the sale and other opioids. While this is certainly a victory, these cases are few and far between, leaving illicit chemists and dealers to operate in their garages and flood the streets with deadly narcotics.
As Georgia tries desperately to curb their drug problem, law enforcement agencies are trying to think creatively about how to locate the source of these counterfeit pills and eventually put an end to them completely. As of now, they’re doing their best to keep the public educated in so that novice users, or those buying ‘real’ pills from the street don’t wind up dead from an overdose because of ignorance.
Right now, awareness is the strongest weapon they have.
Avoid Counterfeit Pills at all Costs
If you suppose that someone close to you currently has a prescription pill addiction and needs opiate detox, it’s paramount that you at least educate them on the situation at hand. These counterfeit pills are not partial. Being that opioid addiction is shifting into a demographic we’ve never seen before—later ages, outside of minority groups, and not in low-income areas—anyone can become a victim of these malicious substances.
It’s not the person risking their life by shooting too much heroin, it’s the person trying to curb their pain or feed their addiction by taking something they think is FDA approved, and, tragically, safe for them. If you hear about someone with a prescription pill addiction buying from another’s supply, the pills they’re purchasing can look identical to the original medicine but have a horrifying secret to share.
Having received quite a few grants, outside funding, and state funding to aid in Georgia’s war on drugs, they’re finally beginning to erect infrastructure and programs meant to help addicts, pursue dealers, and heal their communities. From better rehabilitation centers, incentive to quit using, and cracking down the law on criminals involved with the sale or distribution of illicit substances, the state of Georgia is trying their best to at the very least mitigate the crisis.
Slowly but surely, Georgia is seeing change. They’re currently below the national average of overdose and awareness within the state is growing. They’re teaching their teens about the dangers of common drugs, rather than hammering down that ‘drugs are bad.’ Still, as a whole there is a lot to be done, and the road to recovery—like those suffering from addiction in Georgia—is going to be a long one.
If you or a loved one needs treatment, please call our Georgia rehab center today.
Winne, Mark. “Deadly Drugs Ending Up in Counterfeit Pills; Startling Number Found in Georgia.” WSB-TV Atlanta 2. 2 July 2018. 4 March 2019. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/deadly-drugs-ending-up-in-counterfeit-pills-startling-amount-found-in-ga/781672578
“Street Drugs Sold in GA.” Georgia Poison Center. 4 March 2019. https://www.georgiapoisoncenter.org/poisons/in-the-news/alerts-recent-trends/street-drugs-sold-in-ga/
Gosa, Jon. “Deadly Chemicals in Ga. Counterfeit Pill Outbreak Identified.”EMS1. 15 June 2017. 4 March 2019. https://www.ems1.com/opioids/articles/276131048-Deadly-chemicals-in-Ga-counterfeit-pill-outbreak-identified/