Getting Answers: Hampden D.A. warning of counterfeit prescription drugs

Opioid-related deaths are up in Massachusetts with 2021 surpassing 2020 in numbers
Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 4:30 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Opioid-related deaths are up in Massachusetts with 2021 surpassing 2020 in numbers and now, authorities are warning of a new concern - counterfeit prescription drugs - and young people are at risk.

“So what we are seeing right now is a rise across the Commonwealth and particularly here in western Massachusetts of drugs that are purporting to be prescription drugs on the illicit market and things like Adderall, in particular, where teenagers may be taking them,” said Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.

Gulluni told Western Mass News that his office wants to get the word out about counterfeit prescription drugs getting into the hands of young people.

“They are often mixtures that include fentanyl and when something included fentanyl, it’s highly dangerous,” Gulluni added.

This plays into an opioid crisis that continues to claim young lives. In 2021, Massachusetts saw a nine percent increase in opioid-related deaths from the year before. Of those cases, 93 percent tested positive for fentanyl and five percent of those who died were between the ages of 15 and 24.

A 2021 survey in Springfield found seven percent of eighth graders indicated they had used a prescription drug that was not their own in the past 30 days and approximately four percent of tenth and twelfth graders reported the same thing.

Gulluni told us many teenagers are getting ahold of these drugs through social media platforms.

“A lot of the distribution of these kinds of pills and other drugs now are turning to social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram, other places that teenagers are frequent…and possible buyers are communicating through emojis,” Gulluni explained.

Now, the D.A.’s office is working to inform parents about the dangers of these pills

“So this is being put on by Hampden District Attorney’s Office, the Addiction Task Force. It’s talking about this emerging threat. It’s 6 o clock Tuesday, August 16 at Ludlow High School....We will have a panel of young people and talk about this issue,” Gulluni said.

Tuesday’s event will be held on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ludlow High School on Chapin Street.