BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A potentially lethal new drug has shown up in western New York, and on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a warning about it.
Investigators with Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force were able to intercept a package containing 500 blue pills that looked like oxycodone.
It turned out that they weren’t oxycodone, but instead, they were laced with fentanyl.
That was the first time fentanyl-laced pills appeared in the local region, but similar pills have been linked to numerous deaths in California.
“These dealers were playing Russian Roulette with the lives of New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said. “These poison pills are the latest troubling development in our state’s opioid crisis. I want to warn strongly against taking any prescription drugs you did not get directly from the pharmacy yourself. A single fentanyl-laced pill can kill you. Please be safe and stay vigilant.”
Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein says 132 suspected overdose deaths have happened in Erie County this year.
To put the power of fentanyl in perspective, it is 50 times as strong as heroin.
“A dose just the size of a few grains of sand,” can be deadly, according to Schneiderman’s office. “Unscrupulous drug dealers often cut fentanyl into other drugs because it is relatively inexpensive and can be mixed with other substances to increase a dealer’s profit.”
An unsuspecting user of the pill has no way of telling how much fentanyl is in each one.
Schneiderman says oxycodone should only be purchased from a pharmacy.
“These blue pills are death. Stay away from them,” Schneiderman said.
This particular shipment was intercepted recently in the mail. Drug dealers stuffed the fentanyl-laced pills inside large bags of marijuana.
Schneiderman declined to provide details about this latest bust, saying it was still under investigation. He also wouldn’t say whether anyone has been arrested in relation to the drugs that were shown to the media Thursday.
While dozens of these pills never made it to the streets of western New York, other shipments could have gotten through.
“We know they were being shipped here, and we have intercepted some, but we have no assurances that we’ve intercepted all,” Schneiderman said.
There’s also no telling where they’re being sold.
“Regardless of whether you’re buying pills in Amherst, Buffalo, Springville, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, if they’re blue pills, there’s a good chance they’re not the blue pills you’re looking for,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “So you have to make the assumption that they’re bad everywhere.”
County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said Thursday 132 people are believed to have died as a result of opioid overdoses in 2017, and the vast majority of them — 83 percent — are directly related to — or tested positive for — fentanyl.
The county’s free addiction hotline is (716) 831-7007. The hotline includes a multitude of resources to help addicts and their families get help.
Anyone who has seen the counterfeit pills can call police or Schneiderman’s office at 1-800-771-7755.