Most states across the United States have implemented programs reducing the number of opioids able to be prescribed to a patient. These policies are having unintended consequences, primarily people seeking out illicit drugs after their prescription runs out. Illegal online pharmacies, which allow people to buy prescription drugs online without medical authorization, have flourished as some people look to continue drug usage beyond their prescriptions. In many cases, the drugs are counterfeit painkillers. In some cases, people turn to illegal street drugs as as an alternative to prescription medications. Fake fentanyl is known to be mixed in with counterfeit drugs, resulting in people unknowingly taking the potent opioid. This tragic occurrence has resulted in overdose deaths all around the country.

Fake Fentanyl Leads to Deaths in Florida

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 100 times more powerful than morphine. What many people do not realize is that fentanyl is so dangerous because it is being illegally manufactured overseas and imported as an illicit drug. Often, people who believe that they are illegally buying one type of drug on the street are getting something that is laced with a powerful opioid like fentanyl, which is strong enough to kill through skin contact.

In 2016, at least nine people in Pinellas County died after taking fake Xanax that was laced with fentanyl. In 2018, a Vero Beach orthopedic surgeon was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the death of a woman who overdosed on counterfeit Oxycodone pills laced with a form of fentanyl. Later that year, a Kissimmee man was arrested for running an elaborate, counterfeit pill-making operation out of his home. The arrest occurred after the man’s girlfriend died of an opioid overdose related to fentanyl.

The Rise of the Illegal Sale of Online Prescription Drugs

According to Pain News Network, there are as many as 35,000 online pharmacies operating globally and more than 90 percent of these do not meet the requirements of state and federal laws. Many online pharmacies do not require a prescription to sell drugs, and about 50 percent sell fake medications, including counterfeit painkillers. There are approximately 20 new online pharmacies launched each day.

Painkillers such as Percocet, Oxycodone, Vicodin and Tramadol are easy to find online, but they are not safe or legitimate. The FDA sent warning letters to hundreds of online pharmacies last year, advising them to stop selling misbranded or unapproved prescription drugs. In most cases, the warnings were ignored.

How to Protect Yourself From Counterfeit Drugs

In many cases, clandestine labs in China produce fentanyl illegally and sell it to people who have set up shop as amateur pill makers. People buy pill presses online, mix the chemicals at home, and create counterfeit drugs that they pass off as legitimate ones. These fake drugs are deadlier and they are flooding the international market. In 2017, Mexican authorities seized over 140 pounds of illicit fentanyl with a street value of $1.2 billion.

Buying and consuming opioids sold off of the street or not prescribed by a licensed physician can be dangerous and deadly. Exposure to just a small amount of a counterfeit drug has been known to lead to an overdose and even death. The only way to protect yourself from counterfeit drugs is not to touch anything that is not dispensed by a licensed pharmacy.

Purchasing drugs online from an unlicensed pharmacy or off the street is not safe. If you or your loved ones are struggling with a substance use disorder, there is personalized help and treatment available. Contact the Orlando Recovery Center now to start the recovery process for addiction and dangerous substances. An Orlando Recovery Center representative would be happy to explain available treatment programs and outline your options.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.