“El Choclo” and “MX” for Borderland Beat
|Hawaii police officers warn that many people consume fentanyl without being aware that the pills contain it. Cartels are selling counterfeit pills to opioid addicts who believe the pills contain oxycodone.|
The number of fentanyl drug doses in the US state of Hawaii are climbing and have reached a five-year high since last year, according to the US High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
A total of 243 of Hawaii’s 262 drug-related deaths were accidental. The total number of drug overdoses were up from 265 in 2019 and 226 in 2018.
This increase occurs as the opium problem continues to rise across the United States.
According to the Central for Disease Control, fentanyl has accounted for 55% increase in drug overdoses in the US. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 25 to 40 times stronger than heroin.
Officials say it is made and distributed by Mexican drug cartels, particularly the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel.
“Counterfeit oxycodone pills look just like real oxycodone pills however they’re being manufactured and produced in Mexico in laboratories where there’s no product oversight and regulation. So you have no idea what’s being put into these pills,” Drug Enforcement Agency assistant special agent in charge Leslie Tomaich said.
These pills are becoming popular in Hawaii, according to the Maui Police Department (MPD), Honolulu Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“I don’t want to say that the flood gates have opened but they’re far more common,” HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officer Rico Witt said. “If I have somebody that’s used to taking a real oxycodone and they take one that’s laced with fentanyl that has a bit more than they need, guess what’s going to happen to them?”
In October 2020, the Maui Police seized 500 fentanyl pills after a bust in the Valley Isle.
Police officers say that counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl are becoming more prevalent. These counterfeit pills appear as prescribed pharmaceutical oxycodone pills, in color and scene, but in reality contain deadly fentanyl doses.
“Reports of users who obtained the counterfeit pills illegally advise that after ingesting, extreme nausea resulted and report that the effects are nothing like the legally prescribed oxycodone pills,” MPD said.
To tackle this issue, the DEA is working with community groups in what they call a two-pronged approach.
“On the enforcement side which is our primary mission, is to target and arrest for prosecution those who are distributing it on the streets to lower the supply of it,” Tomaich said.
“We can’t be patting ourselves on the back because we don’t have an opiod epidemic yet, HIDTA Director Gary Yabuta said. “We have a methamphetamine epidemic, ice, batu, and it’s been here for 30 years.”
Witt and Yabuta say that people have to be really careful with prescribed opioid medications because that is generally how addictions begin. When prescriptions run out, people look into counterfeit pills to fill that avoid.
“I would suggest anyone they really look through these and really educate themselves if they’re in need of pain management to find other methods of opiods,” Witt said.
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