Those fighting the war against drugs and addiction are warning people to be aware that pills sold on the street, may not be what they appear to be.
Scouring the dark web and other social media sites, drug users seeking opioids are finding counterfeits, made of fentanyl.
“They might look like a typical Xanax bar. They might look like an Adderall medication,” said Quinnipiack Valley Health District Public Health Program Assistant Kara Sepulveda.
Pills that have been crafted to look like brand names are actually the synthetic opioid fentanyl which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
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“It only takes a small amount to be a lethal dose,” Sepulveda explained.
According to the Connecticut Department of Health, there were 1,374 drug overdose deaths in 2020, and 85% of that involved fentanyl. Authorities policing the state’s drug trafficking say counterfeit drugs make up the majority of what they are seizing.
“Right now, on the streets of Connecticut when you buy or are you acquire a prescription pill, it is more than likely counterfeit and is going to be more than likely deadly,” explained state drug intelligence officer, Bobby Lawlor.
Lawlor says some drug users are using these drugs unknowingly, facing a hidden danger. Now he is eager to get spread the word.
“Our primary goal is to try to get the deaths under control, and keep people from dying,” Lawlor said.
Among last year’s overdose deaths in Connecticut, many were teenagers and young adults. To address this and help educate parents a new website, YouThinkYouKnowCT.org was launched earlier this month.
“We are really hitting the middle school, high school, and young adult population,” said Pam Mautte, president of the Connecticut Prevention Network.
The Connecticut Prevention Network, which launched the website, says nearly 15% of young adults, 18 to 25, reported prescription drug misuse last year. The website is a one-stop shop to educate parents and opioid users.
“It explains where kids get drugs. Why kids misuse drugs, and how they can obtain drugs through social media,” said Mautte.
The Quinnipiack Valley Health District is also trying to spread awareness and says there is a way to detect fentanyl if in doubt. They suggest obtaining fentanyl strips which can be used to test pills before using them. They also recommend people carry naloxone, often known as Narcan, as an opioid overdose reversal medication.
“It basically restores (people who’ve overdosed) ability to breathe and preventing a fatal overdose,” said Sepulveda.
The Quinnipiack Valley Health District says if anyone needs a naloxone kit, fentanyl test strips or training on the prevention of overdoses, they can contact their office (203) 248-4528.