ACTION: Tell journalists that victims of fake pills have not "accidentally overdosed." Counterfeit pill traffickers poison them.

Fake pills are not just cheaper oxycodone or Xanax. They are made of entirely different active ingredients like fentanyl, methamphetamine, and isotonitazene. Yet we speak as if people were seeking these drugs and "overdosed" because they took too much of them.

That doesn't accurately reflect what is happening.

Drug traffickers are committing fraud and sometimes murder. The people who buy their products have been poisoned, not overdosed. If the media doesn't cover this more accurately, people will continue to believe they aren't in danger because they aren't addicts.

How you can help

PSM wrote a letter to the AP Stylebook this year, asking them to adopt new language around the counterfeit pill trade to make this situation clearer.

Lend your voice to this campaign: Ask @APStylebook to formally adopt our suggestions, and if you see a reporter who uses "overdose" instead of "poisoning," tweet at them to recommend they adopt the new style.

Click here or on the blue bird to tweet this message at the AP Stylebook:

.@APStylebook Saying deaths caused by a counterfeit pills are "overdoses" hides the danger that counterfeit pills pose. Please use "poisoning death" or "poisoning" They more accurately describe what happens to these counterfeit pill victims

Click here or on the blue bird to tweet this message at WWLTV:

.@wwltv Calling deaths like Hailey Deickman's an "overdose" is wrong, she was poisoned. Call it a poisoning. She had no idea it had a fatal dose of fentanyl. Hailey's story: https://ctt.ac/71eaE+ @apstylebook #PoisonNotOverdose

Examples of the media misdescribing this public health risk

Original: County deputies issue public warning for fentanyl overdoses.

Revision: County deputies issue public warning about deaths from fentanyl pills 

Original: A Florida doctor has been convicted in a woman’s fatal opioid overdose.

Revision: A Florida doctor has been convicted for distributing the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with  furanylfentanyl that killed a woman

Original: Officials say one man has died and two others are recovering from an overdose of counterfeit oxycodone pills in Mankato.

Revision: Officials say one man has died and two others are recovering from fentanyl poisoning after taking counterfeit oxycodone pills in Mankato.

Resources

Our letter to the AP (May 26, 2021)

Flyer: Talking to Your Family About Counterfeit Medicine

Resources about talking to teens: