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County officials: Increase seen in potentially deadly pressed pills

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 7:10 PM EST
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) - When it comes to purchasing pills and other forms of illicit drugs, Jessica Pennington, who is a recovering addict, says the exchange isn’t like it used to be.

“You just don’t know what you’re getting anymore,” Pennington said.

The uncertainty stems from an increase in substances like fentanyl being disguised as other drugs.

“Now what drug dealers are doing is making it appear that someone is getting a pharmaceutical grade oxycodone, and pharmaceutical grade oxycodone will not kill you if you take one of them … but a pressed fentanyl pill can kill you if you take one,” Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said.

Anderson says they can look like common pills, like Xanax for example. There’s no distinctive characteristic to tell if a pressed pill contains fentanyl or not, so Anderson says the best way to ensure you’re getting safe medication is to go through the pharmacy,” Anderson said.

“These pills with fentanyl in them are not ever going to come from a pharmacy. They’re man-made; they’re made by drug dealers. We recently had a drug bust in the Rome Township area of Lawrence County where three individuals from Detroit had two apartments and they had an actual press where they were taking substances and pressing it into the form of a pill. This has seen a huge increase in our fatal overdoses,” Anderson said.

It’s a deadly issue that has grown over the last few months, sparking concern for people like Pennington who knows firsthand how hard they are to identify.

“You really can’t tell any difference at all, but if you move them around or leave them lying around in your pocket or something like that -- they will start to fall apart because they’re pressed. They’re not perfect like the pharmacy, but they look identical to them,” Pennington said.

Anderson says in efforts to get these pressed pills off the streets, the county’s drug task force is increasing their patrols and doing more undercover work.

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