The War against Counterfeit Controlled Substances

The war against faux, faked, synthetic, counterfeit and imitation drugs is a very real part of the overall War on Drugs. In fact, a significant amount of worldwide resources are used each year to fight the manufacture, distribution and use of these “fake” drugs. However, few people in the general public are aware of this problem, and even fewer still are aware of the severe consequences posed to all those involved in any part of the process that makes the sale and use of fake drugs possible. And because the sale of a faked drug can lead to an allergic reaction, serious criminal penalties and even death, understanding counterfeit drugs is an important part of creating a better educated and therefore better prepared public.

Counterfeit Controlled Substances

Counterfeit controlled substances consist of any substance knowingly sold as a controlled substance that is not actually the real drug being proffered. This could be something as benign as selling oregano as marijuana, or it could be as dangerous as passing off household cleaning products as cocaine or other hard street drugs. This presents a series of hazards:

  • Violence often ensues when a drug abuser realizes they have been duped into buying a fake substance. People who sell fake drugs are sometimes desperate enough to do so in their own communities where it’s extremely likely that they’ll be discovered. In cases like this the person who purchased the faux drug will often take justice in their own hands, because by reporting the problem to police, they’ll only incriminate themselves.
  • People who sell counterfeit controlled substances are often associated with people and situations where real illicit chemicals are present. This means that for many, attempting to sell a counterfeit substance isn’t their first attempt, and in all likelihood these same people are involved in the actual trade of real street drugs – even if only as a consumer.
  • When a user buys a substance thinking it is cocaine or something they are familiar with and have possibly developed a tolerance to, the results can be deadly. In some cases criminals have sold cleaning substances like Spic N Span or laundry detergent as powdered drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth and crack. Unsuspecting users that snort, smoke, ingest or inject these substances could suffer critical reactions and in some cases may die. This is another reason that purchasers of these substances often react so violently when they discover they’ve been fooled.

Reports regularly indicate that when arrested for selling a counterfeit controlled substance, offenders remark that they didn’t think the consequences would be so severe, and in a few cases convicted offenders stated they didn’t think it was even illegal to sell something that wasn’t really a drug. However, because of the risks and associations outlined above, law enforcement takes counterfeit controlled substances just as seriously as traditional illicit street drugs.

In late spring of 2011, there were 2 serious cases of counterfeit controlled substances in the same week as reported in the Missoulian – a local newspaper for the small region around Missoula, Montana. In one of these cases the paper reports:

“On Thursday, Allison appeared before Missoula Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech to face a felony count of criminal possession of an imitation dangerous drug with the purpose to distribute after detectives caught him allegedly trying to pass off baggies of flour as Ecstasy in a drug deal. Orzech set Allison’s bail at $100,000.”

And in a separate instance reported the same week;

“According to the affidavit in that case, police received a report on Wednesday of a man trying to trade LSD for marijuana.” “Preliminary testing of the paper did not produce a positive result for LSD . . . Moldenhauer was charged with criminal possession of an imitation dangerous drug. Orzech set bail at $75,000 for Moldenhauer, who was still on community supervision after serving time in the Montana State Prison.

The men in both cases face up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine if convicted of the charges.” (1)

If these two cases in such a small area are any indicator of the overall problem across the country – and especially in large metropolitan areas – then it’s likely that the scope of the problem is not fully understood by experts in the industry.

Unfortunately, the problem with counterfeit drugs extends far beyond drugs used by people for recreational or other substance abuse purposes. Estimates vary considerably, but most experts agree that millions of people die each year worldwide as a result of taking fake, counterfeit or contaminated drugs. This includes hundreds of thousands of deaths related to the sale of fake anti-malarial medications, which causes fatalities by depriving people of the real medication needed to fight off this deadly disease.

In fact, the problem with counterfeit drugs is such a disastrous, global issue that some countries have significantly stepped up efforts to prosecute those involved in any part of the trade. In India, for example, laws have been considered that, once enacted and enforced, will enable the court system to sentence offenders to death:

“The committee recommended that the maximum penalty for the sale or manufacture of fake medicines that cause grievous harm or death should be changed from life imprisonment to the death penalty and that the minimum prison sentence for these offences should be increased from five years to 10 years. The committee has also called for higher fines for those convicted for trading in fake drugs.” (2)

However, most of the deaths related to counterfeit drugs do not occur in the United States. In fact, in most cases of counterfeit drugs in the U.S., the person selling the drugs is already a substance abuser themselves and is in a desperate bid to obtain cash to buy more of the real thing. If you or someone you care about is desperate because of an addiction or alcoholism, the time to get help is right now. The consequences of continued drug use are simply too severe, and our drug rehab programs are considered among the most successful in the country. Get started today.

Call the number at the top of your screen now for a free, confidential consultation about drug addiction treatment, alcohol addiction treatment, and our intensive inpatient drug rehab program. Your best chance for success is to take action right now.

(1) Nickell, Joe Men Accused of Selling Fake Drugs in 2 Missoula Cases Thursday, May 26, 2011 Missoulian.COM

(2) Ganapati Mudur India to Introduce Death Penalty for Peddling Fake Drugs BMJ. 2003 August 23

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.