Authorities in Portland are warning people to look out for counterfeit prescription pharmaceuticals. The illegal pills look like regular versions of Xanax and oxycodone, but can contain other drugs.
Samples analyzed by the Oregon State Crime Lab show the counterfeits often contain extremely potent substances that can cause overdoses. For example, counterfeit oxycodone was found to contain heroin, fentanyl and tramadol.
The counterfeit pills even have identifying imprints on them, just like the real pills.
Portland Police and Multnomah County are warning people to only buy prescription medications from licensed professionals. They say buying pills on the black market opens people up to substances that can cause overdoses.
"Any pill not purchased from a pharmacy should be considered counterfeit," said Dr. Paul Lewis, Multnomah County's health officer. "You will almost never be getting what you think you are buying, even if it looks legit. And that deception could kill you."
Local health officials identified more than 180 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, and the overdose crisis has continued at the same pace this year.
"In 2017, the number of deaths from the highly potent drugs like fentanyl tripled from 15 to 45," Lewis said. "And that trend is expected to continue."
Multnomah County offers a syringe exchange program that includes overdose rescue kits, including naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.