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Fentanyl-laced pills killing people in Pinellas

Posted at 5:08 PM, May 05, 2016
The Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office is dealing with more cases of Fentanyl-laced pills, often disguised as fake Xanax.
 
The pills look identical to real Xanax pills, said Dr. Jon Russell Thogmartin of the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office.
 
"It's not the same pill and you die and you never knew what hit you," he said.
 
Their labs are now burdened, seeing far more work completing drug testing and toxicology screens.
 
They say these drugs often kill quickly. 
"You take the drug and 20 minutes later you're dead," said Dr. Michael Sheehan, medical director of Operation PAR, a residential drug treatment facility in Largo. "You stop breathing and you can't start."
 
Sheehan is seeing more clients coming in recounting the terrifying effects of Fentanyl-laced Xanax pills.
 
"These are death pills," he said. "It's as if you're having a suicide."
 
Sheehan and Thogmartin say the Fentanyl-laced fake Xanax pills are often imported from China. They are not talking about legal Fentanyl, which can be prescribed by a doctor and is heavily regulated. Instead, they are referring to Fentanyl produced on the black market where there's no regulation. The black market product is cheap to make and disguise as a name-brand prescription, they said.
 
Both say never buy a pill off the streets, because without running a chemical test, there's no way to tell the difference between the real pill and a fake one.
 
"This is a dirty drug," Sheehan said. "You have no idea what you're taking."
 
Thogmartin said if Florida cannot stop the importing of Fentanyl, he believes this epidemic could reach the proportions of the pill mill problem seen here in 2011.
 
So far, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has seen as many as nine deaths possibly related to Fentanyl usage.