KEPR-TV reported that agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided at least two houses in the Tri-Cities, Washington-area due to a heighten concerned of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl being sold on the street. The fake fentanyl pills being found were made to look like OxyContin 30mg pills.
Although Assistant Special Agent Tracy Simmons said they have not found any dealers producing the counterfeit pills in eastern Washington, the area has become a significant distribution location. He warned that the pills being sold on the street are unpredictable. “When dealers make the pills we end up seeing that you’ll get one pill that has nothing in it and then you’ll get another that has 3 or 4 times the overdose levels,’ said Simmons. He warned that someone could get a “hot pill” that would end their life.
On the other side of the state, KIRO 7 reported on efforts by authorities in the Seattle-area to figure out just what is in the pills that police have seized. Forensic scientist Mark Strongman of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab demonstrated the process used to determine the ingredients contained within a pill and said, “You just really can’t tell from the look. You think you can and then you’re surprised.” Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis of the DEA’s Seattle division stated that “Counterfeit opioids are of major concern to the DEA, especially fentanyl. Anytime we encounter it on the street, it’s a major concern.”
Deaths caused by fentanyl are on the rise all across the country. Public Health Seattle and King County reported a total of 23 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016, 33 in all of 2017, and 17 in just the first three months of 2018. Weis said, “We probably lose three or more people in the state every day from overdoses.” To learn more about counterfeit drug incidents in Washington state, you can read PSM’s 2018 Washington Info Sheet.