Opioids (Pills and Heroin)
Health officials warn of rise in deaths from counterfeit pills
April 20, 2021: Cheap, counterfeit opioid pills containing fentanyl are thought to be fueling an increase in fatal drug overdoses across the Portland Metro region. The deaths include teens and other people who didn’t regularly use illicit drugs.
It is very difficult to tell if pills are counterfeit. The amount of fentanyl can vary between pills, even within the same batch. When pills contain more than one substance it can increase the overdose risk, especially if it is mixed with a stronger substance that slows breathing. Anyone who gets pills from anywhere other than a pharmacy should assume that they are counterfeit and contain potentially deadly amounts of fentanyl.
To address this accelerating trend, Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines today issued several warnings against consuming any pill not obtained from a pharmacy. She urged people who use illicit drugs to take added precautions and asks medical providers to highlight these risks.
Dr. Vines also recommends anyone who uses drugs or knows someone who does, to carry multiple doses of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone (name-brand "Narcan"). Naloxone is available over the counter at your local pharmacy. You do not need a prescription or any identification to access it. Oregon's Good Samaritan Law will protect both the person who administers naloxone, and the person who is overdosing, from prosecution.
Naloxone comes in several forms. Short video trainings are available online to learn how to use the nasal form of naloxone/Narcan or injectible naloxone to reverse opiate overdose. If you think someone is experiencing an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Signs of an overdose
- Pale or clammy skin
- Bluish or pale lips and fingernails
- Limp body
- Slow or no breathing
- Vomiting or foaming at the mouth
- Difficult to awaken or not able to awaken
What are opioids?
Opioids are a group of medications that are prescribed for pain. Some examples of opioids are Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet. Prescription pain pills can help treat severe and sudden pain, such as pain from a car accident or surgery. Opioids can also lead to serious problems such as addiction and death from accidental overdose. Heroin is an illegal opioid that is sold on the street and can be bought in pill or powder form. Opioids are highly addictive substances.
Talk to your doctor about the risks of using opioids and your options for other ways to manage your pain. It is not safe to use someone else's medication or to use prescription pain pills for anything other than treating pain under a doctor's care. More information on overdose prevention is available here.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol use, there is help available through the Washington County Crisis Line at 503-291-9111. The line is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Hawthorn Walk-in Center is a confidential and FREE resource. Hawthorn is open every day; visit the website for more information on hours and location.
For other substance use treatment and peer mentoring, please see our provider list. If you child is struggling with drug or alcohol use, they can contact the Oregon YouthLine (text or call) at 1-877-968-8491 or text 'teen2teen' at 839863.
Get rid of extra drugs
Drug disposal reduces the availability of unused prescription drugs that can lead to abuse and accidental poisoning. Please secure medicines and get rid of old, extra or unused prescription pain pills in your home. Find a safe, local drop-off site and never flush drugs down the toilet or put them in the garbage. The Public Health van, operated by the HIV Alliance, collects used syringes and provides sterile syringes to decrease the spread of disease. The van carries other resources, such as naloxone and harm reduction supplies.
Tri-County Opioid Safety Coalition website
The Tri-County Opioid Safety Coalition website was launched in November 2018 to decrease opioid misuse and harms by coordinating the efforts of public health, medical and behavioral health, payer and patient communities. Topics include surveillance/data, pain care, substance use disorder treatment, naloxone and overdose prevention, prescribing, public awareness, clinician and patient education, and medication disposal and safe storage. Information includes efforts specifically related to Washington County.