Federal drug agents are warning the public about a dangerous wave of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl being sold in local communities.
The DEA said drug dealers are targeting college students, white collar workers, even stay at home mothers who regularly use prescription medicine.
"There is an entire community of people that aren't willing or ready to put a needle in their arm and use fentanyl - they think they're safe from this fentanyl crisis - but what they are willing to do is buy a pill off the street," DEA Agent Jon DeLena told Boston 25 News.
The DEA said the counterfeit pills are so realistic, even experienced agents sometimes cannot spot the fake pills.
"That worries me tremendously," DeLena said. "It keeps me up at night."
At the state crime lab in Concord, New Hampshire, forensic analyst Jennifer Paris said she's analyzing a growing number of cases involving pills made to look like oxycodone, adderall and percocet.
"We have had some that have come through that have been really, really good mimics of the original tablet," Paris said.
Investigators said drug dealers are using the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl in pills, because it's powerful and cheap, which means a greater profit margin.
"They're [selling for] 30 or 80 dollars a pill, as opposed to you might buy a dosage unit of fentanyl for five or 10 dollars, depending on where you're buying it, so it's an incredible markup," DeLena said.
In March 2017, Walpole Police arrested five men they said were selling counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl in a house on Norfolk Street.
When officers raided the home, they said they found a pill press, a machine used to manufacture the fake pills.
Boston 25 News discovered identical machines easily available on eBay, along with tablet dye, binding agents and special tools to mark the pills with identifiable names.
Dr. Brian O'Connor from Middlesex Recovery, a private practice that treats those battling opioid addiction, said many of his patients are buying those pills, and have no idea they're actually taking fentanyl until he runs a urine test.
"I've had many patients who say you know, the most recent Percocet I bought, it seemed to crush easier, it seemed to give me a different kind of a high," Dr. O'Connor said. "Many patients are surprised when they find out, saying well, I can't be positive for fentanyl."
DeLena said stories like that shake him to the core, and said his best weapon against this new trend is public education.
"This is a threat to our community right now. It's something we need to make the public aware that it's out there," DeLena said.
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