“Fake Percocet” is being blamed for the recent rash of opioid overdoses in Georgia. State authorities believe up to four people have died and dozens more have become ill in the central part of the state after overdosing on the unknown street drug.
Officials said Tuesday that they were awaiting tests to confirm the cause of the deaths and overdoses, but local officials said several people told doctors and nurses that they became very sick after swallowing yellow pills purchased on the street. Some of the affected people told nurses and doctors that they only swallowed one pill before becoming ill. Last month, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab began studying counterfeit pills and found more than 450 that contained but were being sold on the street as pharmaceuticals, spokeswoman Nelly Miles said.
The Bibb County Coroner, Leon Jones, identified two of the people who have died of overdoses as 36-year-old Amirrah Gillens and 52-year-old Gregory Mitchell, CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV in Macon reports. Gillens died Sunday and Mitchell died Tuesday morning.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Over 59,000 Americans overdosed and died in 2016 and those numbers appear to be on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1,300 people in Georgia last year. Georgia health officials say this is the largest cluster of opioid overdoses in state history.
Most of the patients arrived at hospitals unconscious and several needed medical equipment to breathe. They also needed “aggressive” doses of, said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center. Lopez said Navicent Health first contacted the poison center late Monday night after treating five people (all from the same household) for overdoses. “Right there, there seemed to be something wrong with that picture, that all five came from a particular household and there were patients ranging from 20- to 60-year-olds in that group,” he said.
State officials acknowledged Tuesday that gathering more information will be difficult. Narrowing down an exact cause of the deaths and overdoses in middle Georgia proves challenging, especially because patients addicted to opioid aren’t forthcoming with information regarding their drug use. Patient tests also don’t always reveal the cause of overdoses and it’s difficult to test for newer synthetic drugs, said Dr. Laura Edison, a medical epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health. So far, police haven’t found a pill similar to those described by sickened people.
It’s obvious that the war on drugs isn’t working. People are going to find their way around laws, and the drugs are going to continue to get more dangerous. Hopefully, by alerting at least some to the problems with drug use and the damaging effects to the body, it will stop at least one person from even beginning a life of chemical dependency.
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