Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Hospital: counterfeit oxycodone causing overdoses

by Lake County Leader
| September 21, 2021 10:40 AM

Local health officials are warning the public of an influx of counterfeit opioid tablets arriving recently in the area from Missoula and Spokane.

Maria Williams, a nurse practitioner at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, said Tuesday the tablets are being marketed as “Oxycodone 30mg” tablets, but they contain multiple substances including fentanyl and methamphetamine

Williams helps run the hospital’s Medication Assisted Treatment program. She said the tablets are extremely dangerous and many people buy them with the belief that they are pharmaceutical grade, but they are black market products. They are often called “Mexi 30s,” “Oxy 30s,” or “Mexi Blues.”

Williams said the source of the fake tablets remains unclear. Authorities suspect they are coming from China through Seattle, but they could be coming from Mexico.

The tablets are typically blue and sometimes they are stamped with numbers and letters, sometimes not. They are pressed into a tablet so they can look quite legitimate, Williams said.

“The concern with fentanyl is the potency. An incredibly small amount can cause an overdose,” Williams said. “In counterfeit tablets, the active ingredients are not evenly distributed throughout the pill. One tiny piece can contain enough fentanyl to lead to overdose and death. This can occur almost immediately. We have seen a significant increase in overdoses over the past few months due to these counterfeit tablets.”

“There is no denying our community has issues with substance use; but until now it has kept to the shadows. Many have been able to ignore the issue because it has not affected them directly,” Williams said.

However, the opioid epidemic has crossed all boundaries and brought it to light.

“We have lost many members of our community to accidental overdose, and it is preventable.”

Williams urges all community members to get naloxone (Narcan), an opioid antagonist that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is available to anyone who asks, and is covered by most insurance (including Medicaid). They typically come in packs of two at local pharmacies.

“Keep one at home and easily accessible. Keep another with you when you are out in the community,” Williams said. “You never know who is struggling with opioid dependence, and you can save a life.”

If you know someone who struggles with opioid dependence, Williams said, urge them to keep Narcan with them at all times. Encourage them to never use substances alone.

For more information about the Providence St. Joe’s Medication Assisted Treatment program, call Shelbie at 406-883-8243.