How Can I Tell if I’m Taking Fake Opioids?
If you’re taking pain pills recreationally, chances are, you have to source them from somewhere other than a pharmacy. That leads to increasing risks of the drug you think you’re taking not being present at all. Instead, today’s street drugs include counterfeit pills containing everything from stronger opioids like fentanyl to methamphetamine to benzodiazepines and even veterinary medications.
If you buy prescription pills on the street, it’s very likely to be some kind of opioid. The bad news is that fake prescription pills are also very likely to include extremely dangerous drugs like fentanyl. In fact, one DEA report showed that 6 out of 10 fake prescription pills they seized actually contained a potentially lethal (over)dose of fentanyl – an opioid that’s up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
How Common are Fake Opioids?
In 2021, the DEA seized some 20.4 million fake opioid pain pills. These drugs can often look extremely similar to the drugs they’re knocking off. And, with labels like Percocet, OxyContin, etc., it can be difficult to tell that you’re not taking the real thing.
With recent crackdowns on opioid prescriptions, it’s likely that fake opioids are more common than the real thing. This means that unless you get your pills from a pharmacy or someone you trust who go them from a pharmacy, you can’t be sure that your pain pills are genuine.
How Dangerous are Fake Pills?
According to the CDC, over 4.7% of deaths caused by overdose in 2021 were proven cases of fake opioids. In some states, that rate is as high as 15%. Those fake prescription pills included OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall, so not all of them were sold as opioids. However, almost all of them included fentanyl.
That translates to a devastatingly large number of overdose deaths. In 2021, 106,000 Americans died from an overdose, meaning almost 5,000 people are proven to have died after taking fake opioids and pills. Those numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, which is linked to the rise in synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which are often significantly stronger than any other drug on the market.
In addition, with no dosing or quality control on fake opioids, you have no idea what you’re taking. A Percocet pill is dosed and rigorously checked for quality control. A fake Percocet may contain almost any amount of fentanyl and just one could send you into an overdose. And, according to the DEA, 60% of fake Percocet on the market has the ability to do so – dependent on your tolerance, metabolism, and genetics. That becomes even more dangerous if you’re buying Percocet in doses where you’d normally take more pills, because you have no idea of just one pill is enough to cause an overdose, let alone two or three.
It’s also a risk if you go to the hospital. If you tell hospital staff that you’ve been taking something like Vicodin, you’ll normally receive a single dose of Narcan, the overdose prevention drug. A single dose is enough to reverse an overdose for most pain pills. However, most fentanyl requires up to three doses to reverse the overdose, followed by longer term medical care because the drug lasts longer than the overdose prevention. Most Naloxone products are sold in doses of two, which means that if you’re using on your own, you’ll need two packs of Naloxone per person to use “safely”.
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Checking Your Pills
If you’re taking opioid prescription pain pills without a prescription, it’s important to do so safely. The best and only real safety measure is to take your drugs to a testing lab. Here, you can have your drugs tested to see if the contents are what you think they are, what the dosing is, and if there are any contaminates you should be aware of.
These services are often free or low cost. For example DanceSafe is a nonprofit center offering drug checking strips, so you can check for fentanyl and other contaminates in your home. The organization also has a lab, which you can sometimes use. In addition, DanceSafe sometimes has labs set up at events – which means you can always look for them if you live in an urban area. There are other organizations offering similar services, but DanceSafe is the only nonprofit drug checking company in the United States.
A drug test kit also isn’t a greenlight on your drugs. Instead, these kits look for red flags such as fentanyl or known contaminates. The DanceSafe kit looks for 100 different substances. It means it’s less likely that you’re taking fake opioids. However, you’ll need an actual lab test to see what your drugs actually are and if they are completely safe.
If you can’t order a test kit before you intend to take your pills, you can also try comparing your drugs to something you know is the real thing. That means having a package of the real thing on hand. For example, a friend might have a prescription which you can compare.
- Comparing the packaging and looking for any differences
- Looking at pill size and color and seeing if they are the same
- Checking the listed dosage amount
- Looking for irregularities in pill size, color, or contents
- Breaking pills and seeing if they’re the same color inside
Prescription pills are always uniform in size, color, and contents. There are no irregularities from one to the next. Packaging is always sealed and always lists the dosage, the contents, and the brand. If not all of that is present, chances are, you’re taking fake pills.
However, fake opioids can be extremely convincing. It may be difficult to impossible to tell the real thing from the fake without a lab. So comparing your pills to the real thing isn’t a foolproof way of ensuring you’re taking “safe” pills. The only way to ensure you’re not taking fake pills is to have them lab tested or to buy them from a pharmacy.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to get help. That includes if you’re taking pills which you know could endanger you. Knowingly risking your life to get high is not a symptom of mental health or everything being okay. Often, it means you need mental health treatment and therapy – even if you’re not struggling with substance abuse problems or addiction.
Pain pills are popular, affordable, and are often considered safe. As a result, millions of Americans use them recreationally. Unfortunately, that’s becoming more and more dangerous as fake pills become more common. Today, there are millions of fake pain pills seized by the DEA every year. And, some 60% of those contain potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. Often, there’s no easy way to tell fake pills from the real thing. However, you can look for lab testing if you will use those pills anyway. The best option is to stay safe, don’t use pills, and ask for help if you can’t stop using on your own.
If you or your loved-one struggles from alcoholism or other substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about our alcohol rehab, detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs. 10 Acre Ranch also has specialty tracks like our pet friendly drug rehab and couples substance abuse treatment programs. We’re here to help you recover.