Regional DEA officials say there’s been a 275% increase in seizures of the counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the past year. Investigators say many are made in Mexico, then marketed online to look legitimate.

“They weren’t very common up until a year and a half ago, and now they’ve become the norm for overdose deaths in the area,” said Alex Speldrich, a patrol sergeant with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.

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“A little bit of fentanyl – we’re talking about just grams of salt-sized (fentanyl) – is actually enough to be fatal,” continued Speldrich. “It does not take very much for somebody to create that high effect as opposed to a traditional morphine or opiate like heroin.”

The fake pills add to the local overdose problem as well. The Eugene Police Department said 441 overdose calls were logged in 2020. So far this year, there are already 407 calls.

A plastic bag of white and blue capsule pills on a table.

Capsules that have been emptied and refilled with a white substance, Fentanyl. The refilled capsules can be identified by the white, powdery substance on the outside and the manner in which the capsule has been pressed together (the outer casing is abnormally expanded and, in some cases, cracked or damaged). Undated photo.

Eugene Police Department / Eugene Police Department

The DEA Seattle Field Division, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, says besides the distribution of fake and potentially deadly pharmaceuticals, drug trafficking is also inextricably linked to violence.

“Twenty percent of DEA investigations in the Pacific Northwest result in the seizure of firearms,” the Seattle DEA Field Office said in a press release. “And this year alone, DEA seized more than 2,700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations nationwide.”

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

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