Counterfeit pills putting people in danger

ATLANTA — GBI drug chemistry experts say the latest street drug crisis involves counterfeit pills.

“This is unprecedented,” GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said.

Agents have a strong warning about pills marked and sold on the street as something they're not.

“Since January of 2015, we have tested 454 different types of counterfeit tablets,” GBI director Vernon Keenan said.

They say the danger is real because sometimes the fake drug is made of stuff far different than the real thing.

“If you’re getting something on the street and you think it’s one thing, there's a strong chance that it’s gonna be something that's completely different,” Miles said.


“You don't know what effect it's going to have on your body,” Keenan said.

And in some cases, it could be deadly.

“This all came to light when we had a tablet that was marked as oxycodone,” Keenan said. “It contained a new drug called 'pink,' which is a synthetic opioid, furanyl fentanyl and fentanyl.”

One mom knows how bad it can be. Her son died after taking a counterfeit pill.

"It looked exactly like a Xanax to an untrained eye," she said. "He thought, 'I really need some sleep,' and he took one and is now sleeping forever."

Keenan said the lab’s data shows the counterfeit problem is statewide, but is centered around metro Atlanta.

“It shows that the situation is extremely dire,” Miles said.

Keenan said he quickly scheduled a meeting with some key drug enforcement bosses.

“We’re gonna show them all the protective gear that the crime laboratory uses when they handle these drugs,” he said. “We found a tablet in this drug study that was supposed to be aspirin that contained fentanyl.”

Miles says the motive there may be concealing contents from police, but in most cases, the motive may be money. The more dangerous stuff may be cheaper.