(WSVN) - There’s a warning going out to parents tonight about what may appear to be a popular prescription medication but is actually fake and could be deadly. 7’s Karen Hensel investigates.
Bonnie Witler, mother: “He had a smile that could make me melt.”
Bonnie Witler’s son Jason wanted to get married and have children. He never got that chance.
Bonnie Witler: “I lost a soulmate.”
In April, Jason died of a drug overdose at age 28.
Although he was an addict, Bonnie says she is certain her son had no idea that what he bought from a dealer would turn out to be fentanyl, a highly dangerous synthetic opioid.
Bonnie Witler: “This was not a young man who wanted to die. In the long run, it’s Russian roulette what you’re going to get.”
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don Garrett, DEA Miami Field Division: “That’s just it: they don’t know what they’re getting, and that one dosage, that one tablet that they are ingesting, could be the last thing that they ever ingest.”
People dying from taking drugs laced with other substances are on the rise.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest warning is for parents about the common medicine Adderall, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
But many teens buy it illegally, thinking it will help them in academics or athletics. Now some of those pills are found to be laced with crystal meth.
Don Garrett: “OK, so that one came up as methamphetamine.”
Don Garrett is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge at DEA Miami.
Don Garrett: “What they look like — the same shape, they have the same markings, they have the same colors.”
Take a look. The pills on the left are the fake, meth-containing concoctions.
On the right, real Adderall.
Karen Hensel: “As a parent, would I be able to go into my child’s room, look at their Adderall, and tell the difference between the real and fake?”
Don Garrett: “You could not. That’s how good these counterfeit operations are.”
Karen Hensel: “Could a DEA agent do it visually?”
Don Garrett: “No. That’s why we have to take our evidence that’s seized and get it to the lab for a final analysis.”
This is what it looks like inside the DEA’s New York City lab.
Thomas Blackwell, DEA NYC lab director: “There’s about $120,000 worth of tablets right there.”
It is here that seized drugs are tested to determine what is actually in them.
Thomas Blackwell: “That’s indicative of it being heroin.”
Since the start of the year, DEA agents have seen what they call an explosion of fake Adderall pills on the streets in the Northeast.
Thomas Blackwell: “These are all fake Adderall tablets. They all contain methamphetamine.”
“Associate Special Agent in Charge Jon DeLena, DEA New England Field Division: “To me, in my 25 years with DEA, the most alarming thing that I’ve ever seen. Nobody thinks, if they’re taking an Adderall from maybe their roommate in college or somebody in their homeroom in high school, if they’re taking one of those pills, nobody thinks, ‘Maybe this is made with crystal methamphetamine in a dirty laboratory somewhere outside the country.'”
Meth, of course, is highly addictive. It can lead to dangerous behavior and even death.
In April, the Justice Department announced charges against the leader of a Mexican drug cartel and others for allegedly importing more than 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine.
Don Garrett: “It was the largest methamphetamine seizure in the state of Florida.”
The feds say the drugs were hidden in concrete tiles and even dissolved in buckets of house paint, but thankfully, the massive amounts of meth never made it here to the streets of Miami.
Don Garrett: “The Mexican cartels are looking to pump a direct pipeline and establish a consistent market, distribution market here in South Florida.”
These are a few of the illegal pill presses seized by the DEA in the United States.
Garrett says the cartels are marketing to a new generation.
Karen Hensel: “Why is the drug cartel so interested in getting kids hooked on fake Adderall?”
Don Garrett: “Because that’s their future profits. That’s their future purchaser.”
Meanwhile, Bonnie Witler has this to say about those looking to exploit addicts’ vulnerabilities by pushing counterfeit pills.
Bonnie Witler: “How is that any different from someone taking a shotgun and killing someone point blank? It’s the same thing.”
A mother’s anger, rooted in a mother’s heartbreak.
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