KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is reporting a new trend contributing to the opioid epidemic: counterfeit drugs.
The phenomenon involves drugs, specifically pills, made to look like prescription medications like Percocet or Xanax.
Using pill presses that can produce thousands of pills in an hour, the medications are manufactured to look real, but are made with a combination of other drugs.
“Pharmaceutical manufacturers will tell you, when you take powders and try to mix them together, it’s one of the most difficult things that they do,” said T.J. Jordan, Assistant Director for the TBI, overseeing the drug division.
Jordan says the growing trend is dangerous because the counterfeit drugs can be laced with more deadly combinations, like fentanyl, without the buyer knowing.
The counterfeit pills are more increasingly sold online using the “Darkweb,” according to the TBI’s annual report, and cannot usually be traced as easily by law enforcement.
“People think they’re buying hydrocodone, but they’re actually getting a pill laced with fentanyl. They think they’re getting a good pill, but actually, it’s counterfeit and it isn’t what it appears to be,” said Jordan.
In Knoxville, a local pharmacist says his job changes weekly to stay up-to-date to new medications and prescription laws.
“I understand that people want to save money, i understand that money can be tight, but it’s not worth risking your life over saving $5 on the internet getting a medication that you may not know what you’re getting,” said Matt Windham, pharmacist in charge at Belew Drugs on Washington Pike in Knoxville.
Windham says while he doesn’t think about counterfeit drugs everyday, he hopes to educate the community about the risks associated with some drugs, to help the community be safer.
The TBI reports investigations involving counterfeit drugs are increasing statewide.