TBI sounds the alarm on counterfeit drugs and drug addiction

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDEF) – Overdoses and counterfeit pills are on the rise in Volunteer State, and early data shows they have reached an alarming new level, prompting authorities to sound the alarm bells

On Monday, the TBI, the health department and other organizations met to discuss the rapidly rising rates of overdoses and illegal drugs.

“Once again the alarm bells ringing about the dangers of drug addiction. Let me be clear. If you buy pills on the streets and in our state, you are gambling, ”says David Rausch, TBI.

For the first time in several years, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a public safety alert over the dangerous influx of fake prescription pills. Last month, the DEA reported that more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills had been seized this year.

The TBI says the pills are typically mass-produced in labs illegally overseas – then marketed to look like real prescription drugs. These black market pills often contain dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“In 2020, we lost 3,032 Tennessee residents to fatal overdoses and that’s an alarming 45% increase from 2019-2020. It even exceeds the 30% national increase over the same period, ”says Dr. Lisa Piercey of the Tennessee Department of Health.

The Tennessee Department of Health says the overdoses occurred primarily in the 35 to 44 age group and involved fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“What is clear and this is something we have known for a long time is that our state does not just have a problem with counterfeit pills, an opioid problem or a methamphetamine problem. We have an addiction problem, ”says Marie Williams of TN’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction.

Forensic scientists at TBI found that half of the “oxycodone” tablets received as evidence contained fentanyl, not oxycodone.

If you or someone you know has an addiction, help is available.

Those looking for help can call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789 or SMS SAVE at 30678 to download the TN Recovery app to connect people with addictions and their family members to available resources.

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