This is Why People With Addiction Use Counterfeit Drugs

This is Why People With Addiction Use Counterfeit Drugs

Prescription medications, by definition, must be prescribed by a doctor. Many people in pain are reporting that doctors are becoming increasingly wary of prescribing opioid medications. This leaves patients in the lurch.

People will often do almost anything to obtain medicines for their pain or to feed their addiction, even if it means buying counterfeit drugs.

To complicate matters, there are several types of counterfeit drugs. All of them are risky, if not deadly, to consume.

Counterfeit Drugs Look Like the Real Thing

A counterfeit drug looks like the real thing, and may even have an embossed stamp on the pill that is like the real thing. These counterfeits are sold on the street with other pharmaceuticals that might have been diverted from patients. This is why they are called “street drugs.”

Street drugs are often distributed through professional drug dealers.

We never know what drug dealers are actually selling. In most cases, street drugs are not sourced from trustworthy manufacturers. You can’t trust sellers to let you know what, exactly, they’re selling (even if they know, which they probably do not).

They might be selling drugs for which they’ve found a formula online and that they’ve made in their basements. But who knows?

But They’re Not…

While a counterfeit medication may appear to be a normal manufactured opioid, it can be an entirely different drug or combination of drugs. Counterfeit drugs may have minimal active ingredients or a far more potent active ingredient than is being advertised. In fact, you have no way of knowing what the actual chemicals are in counterfeit medications.

Increasingly, many counterfeit opioids are being laced with more lethal chemicals. Sadly, the use of adulterated drugs is surging in some areas of the country.

For some people in pain or with addiction, the risks involved in taking counterfeit drugs may seem worth taking as opposed to letting symptoms go untreated, or to have to experience excruciating withdrawal.

To begin solving the problem, the country needs an intense educational program on the dangers of using drugs obtained on the street. But the problem of counterfeit drugs and the dangers they pose seems insurmountable to me. I am not an expert on counterfeit medications. I will leave the resolution of the problem to law enforcement, because selling counterfeit drugs is clearly criminal activity.

Alarmingly, as the use of counterfeit drugs has skyrocketed, so has the number of deaths associated with their consumption. This is contributing to another problem.

Counterfeit Drugs or Pharmaceutical Grade? No Way To Differentiate

Many of the counterfeit drugs look like prescription medications in the deceased person’s body at the time of autopsies, but they are actually illegal synthetic analogs. Often, the synthetic analogs cannot be differentiated from pharmaceutical grade drugs by routine blood analysis. This means medical examiners and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will report these deaths as unintentional overdose deaths from prescription medications.

Since the CDC will attribute these deaths to prescription medication overdoses, it will appear the increased deaths are due to overprescribing.

To draw that conclusion would be misleading and unhelpful. Counterfeit drugs are not opioids that are prescribed by physicians.

The deaths caused by counterfeit drugs may cause people in pain to find it more difficult to obtain medications for their pain. And, if they go to the street for medications, more people may die in an effort to escape pain.

What can we do to break this cycle? As I said, that’s for law enforcement to figure out. I just hope, for everyone’s sake, they do it soon so deaths can be prevented and life for people in pain is not made even more miserable.


Purchase my book The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us (available on Amazon) or read a free excerpt here.

the painful truth, lynn webster, md, chronic pain

Find me here:

Amazon and Facebook

Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD

Leave a Comment