Black market pill presses help criminals create fake oxycodone

NORWICH, CT - MARCH 23: Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain lie on display on March 23, 2016 in Norwich, CT. On March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced guidelines for doctors to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers prescribed, in an effort to curb the epidemic. The CDC estimates that most new heroin addicts first became hooked on prescription pain medication before graduating to heroin, which is stronger and cheaper. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Fake oxycodone pills, which have already proven deadly, are popping up on the streets in Ohio, prompting officials to issue a warning.

Just looking at the tablets, it is impossible to tell the difference between real ones and fake ones.

“You can put them side by side and can’t tell the difference. This is something new and, once again, very dangerous,” said Douglas Rohde, supervisor of chemistry and toxicology at the Lake County Crime Lab.

The Lake County Crime Lab has seen cases involving the fake opioid skyrocket 50 percent in the last six months. Rohde has worked at the lab for almost 20 years. He said it used to be easy to spot a fake pill.

“Now, the quality is so professional that not even the pharmaceutical companies that produce them can tell what is produced illicitly,” said Rohde.

Chemists at the Lake County Crime Lab analyzed the fake pills. They found the pills filled with sugar, acetaminophen or potentially deadly fentanyl or carfentanyl opioids. Officials said criminals are buying pill presses off the black market and are making the fake pills either here in the United States or at clandestine labs in Mexico.

Officials are warning people who buy pills off the street about buying them anywhere but at a pharmacy, and with a prescription.

“We’re warning drug addicts, if you think you are buying oxycodone off the streets, there is a very good chance you are not, and you are purchasing something that could be deadly,” said Rohde.