The damage caused by fake prescription drugs is hard hitting across the state of Florida. Counterfeit versions of medications needed to treat cancer, high blood pressure, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and more have led to more than 1 million deaths around the world.
Whether the drugs are illegally imported by unethical medical professionals and pain clinics to sell at a profit, purchased through illegal online pharmacies by patients seeking out less expensive treatment options, or sold on the street by drug dealers to people who are struggling with addiction, the results are disastrous. In some cases, the counterfeit medication may be missing the necessary active ingredient and be completely ineffective, causing death when the underlying medical issue is not treated. In other cases, a person who is seeking to maintain an addiction by purchasing pills on the street may find that the pills they purchase – though they look exactly like the real thing – are actually another, potentially deadly substance.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has focused heavily on South Florida in their efforts to positively impact the problem. They said: “Diverted pharmaceuticals are supplied in significant quantities to other regions of the United States by doctors, pharmacists and pain management clinics based in Florida using fraudulent methods. South Florida (Drug Enforcement) Task Force operations are successfully targeting these organizations, and long-term undercover operations are beginning to yield significant results with arrests of high-level multiple clinic owners and a large number of corrupt physicians.”
Illegal Online Pharmacies
In many cases, the individual selling the drugs to consumers is well aware of what is in the medications, but in some cases, they too may be duped by online suppliers that look very real. Many even have US-based customer service numbers and sites that look legitimate, but if they are actually coming from outside the country, even if they are the correct medication, there is no oversight to ensure that the drugs are not expired, did not hit temperatures that damaged the medication, and were stored, shipped, and handled properly from the time they were manufactured until they ended up in the hands of the consumer. These sites look real enough to trick trained medical professionals; they also fool consumers looking to purchase much-needed medications.
How to Avoid Fake Counterfeit Medications
You can take precautions to avoid purchasing counterfeit medications. For example, you can:
- Avoid buying any medications online. If you must, make sure the site is licensed by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). There should be a seal.
- Buy all your prescription drugs from a licensed drugstore in the US. It is very unlikely that any medications sold at a licensed facility are counterfeit.
- If you are taking a new medication – and even if you aren’t – double check and make sure that the pills you receive look like they should: correct shape, markings, and color.
- When traveling, make sure you carry your medications with you in your carryon luggage. Avoid buying medications while abroad.
There are cases in which drugs are sold on the street as prescription medications that are absolutely fake, and the people selling them are well aware of that fact. One such issue hit hard in Florida when fake Xanax pills were sold to Floridians. Nine people died when pills that were sold as Xanax were found to be fentanyl, a potent opiate drug. The pills were indistinguishable from their real counterparts, and buyers had no way of knowing what they were taking. Unfortunately, because fentanyl is so much more potent than Xanax, when buyers took the medication as if it were Xanax, many experienced medical emergency and even death.
Why would dealers purposefully create drugs that were far more potent than the potential end user would expect and risk harming their clientele? Many experts say that the original intent may have been to win the loyalty of their customers. That is, the idea may have been that by creating a more potent version of the drug, dealers would succeed in having customers seek them out for more of the same. In some cases, this may have worked, but in others, especially in Florida, it horrifically backfired, taking the lives of people who were struggling with addiction.
If your loved one is living with an addiction to prescription painkillers and frequently seeks out opiate medications on the street, the only guaranteed way to avoid overdose on counterfeit pills is to stop using them completely. A medical disorder, addiction is treatable with comprehensive detox and treatment. Is now the time for you to help your family member or friend connect with treatment services that will help them avoid the risks of continued substance use and abuse?