Tennessee officials address counterfeit drugs in state

JACKSON, Tenn. — Counterfeit drugs disguised as the real thing have become a problem nationwide.

“If you’re buying pills on the street in our state, you’re gambling with your life,” said David Rausch, Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

State agencies held a news conference on Monday to address the growing problem of counterfeit drugs.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey says it’s affecting every county within the state.

“In 2020 we lost 3,032 Tennesseans to deadly overdoses, and that is an alarming 45% increase from 2019 to 2020,” Piercey said.

Piercey says that even exceeds the national increase of 30% in the same time period.

Rausch says the problem is that counterfeit pills are being created overseas and sold as if they are the real thing.

“In a growing and troubling number of cases, they contain fentanyl. On the left is a legitimate oxycodone pill and on the right is a fake. Can you tell the difference? Probably not!” Rausch said.

Brett Pritts is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the Drug Enforcement Administration in Nashville.

Pritts says several others have been disguised to appear authentic, such as Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, and Percocet. But there are others as well.

“Fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin, and 2 milligrams is considered lethal, which is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil,” Pritts said.

The TBI warns you should not accept pills like these ones from anyone you know. They should only be specifically prescribed to you by your healthcare physician.

“Those making these pills don’t care about quality control. They only care about profiting from other people’s addictions,” Rausch said.

All state agencies want to stress that just one pill can kill.

They suggest you get help if you are struggling with an addiction, as well as become educated on naloxone, a drug designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. That just might save your life.

You can read more from the DEA here.

You can find more local news through the WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News app.

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