It’s difficult to believe that even the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed about 200 people in Greene and Columbia counties, has a rival potentially more lethal still. The encroachment of counterfeit prescription pills consisting of, and maybe composed of, fentanyl is sending shivers down the spines of health officials and law enforcement.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a strongly worded public safety warning about an “alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills.” The DEA and its police partners are seizing deadly fake pills at record rates, the agency said. In Columbia County earlier this year, a Hudson man was charged with having 98 blue-colored pills that looked like 30-milligram oxycodone pills, but were actually fentanyl.
We know fentanyl is a synthetic opioid significantly stronger and more lethal than other opioids including heroin. It is 100 times more potent than a regular opioid.
No counterfeit pills have surfaced yet in Greene County, but the sheriff’s office said Tuesday that some intelligence indicates they are being manufactured. It is unclear if any have made their way into the county.
It is also unclear whether any recent overdoses can be linked to fentanyl pills masquerading as other opioids. Officials won’t know if any of the overdoses can be positively linked to fentanyl until toxicology reports come back, and that takes quite some time.
There will be real and significant consequences if fentanyl pills infiltrate Columbia and Greene counties on a large scale. Health officials and law enforcement agencies have been put on alert. Sadly, that may be all we can do at the present time.