BY SERGEANT BRANDON MORREALE, NORTH OGDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT
There have been some concerns brought up regarding prescription medications and the dangers of illicit substances being disguised as such. Sadly, the concern is warranted. Our communities have seen an influx of counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl: LITTLE BLUE PILLS.
Since January of 2022, the North Ogden Police Department has already responded to two separate overdose calls regarding pills that are designed to look like a prescription narcotic: Oxycodone. In both of these cases, the pills were seized and sent to the Utah State Crime Laboratory for testing. Both were analyzed and identified as Fentanyl: a drug which can be lethal in very small doses. One of the two patients, unfortunately, passed away.
There was a third incident in which a citizen was found in possession of similar pills. The pills were sent to the laboratory for testing, but the results are still pending.
Oxycodone is a prescribed pain medication; however, it is also a commonly abused and recreationally used opioid, with effects similar to that of heroin. The abuse of Oxycodone is dangerous in and of itself. If used outside prescribed guidelines, it depresses the respiratory system and can cause respiratory failure and death.
Many recreational users of opioids use them for the calming and euphoric effect the drug has on the body and mind. So, why is it so scary that Fentanyl is being found in these counterfeit prescription pills?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than that of morphine. The lethal dose of fentanyl is about two milligrams, equivalent to just a few grains of salt. Fentanyl has many of the same effects on the body as other opioids; however, due to its strength, the results can be quick, and they can be detrimental.
It is not uncommon for teen-aged children and young adults to seek the calming and euphoric effect of opioids such as Oxycodone. Since it is unlikely that the drugs will be prescribed to them, they obtain them through various unsafe means. Without obtaining the drugs through a physician’s prescription, there is no way to know what pills they are receiving. When observed, there is no discernable difference between the proper prescription Oxycodone and the counterfeit fentanyl pills. The colors in Figure 1 and Figure 2 are slightly different, but the color varies greatly. The markings, size, and shape are all the same.
The dangers go beyond the intentional ingestion of the pills. The pills have a powdery-like substance to them, which, when touched, can be partially absorbed into the skin. This is especially concerning if the pills touched contain Fentanyl, where such a small amount can be fatal.
The information provided is far from all-inclusive. I would highly recommend you do some research into the dangers of Fentanyl and have conversations with your children and loved ones about abuse or recreational use of prescription medications. Remind children not to touch any pills that they may find, even for a moment, and to find an adult. Dispose of your unused or expired medications at an approved collection box. There is one conveniently located in the lobby of the North Ogden Police Department.