Poison Pill Overdoses Could Be “The Sniffles Before the Flu”
The little yellow “Poison Pills” hitting the streets of Central Georgia right now may not look much, but they contain a cocktail so lethal, local lawmen are urging illicit buyers to not even touch them.
“If anyone comes into contact with these pills, please don’t handle them,” Macon-Bibb Sheriff David Davis says. “They can possibly be absorbed through the skin.”
The pills, which present as counterfeit Percocet, have sent more than a dozen people in Macon, Warner Robins, Perry, Centerville and Albany to the either the hospital or the morgue in the last three days. The outbreak of overdoses hitting local emergency rooms beginning Sunday has been so severe, it’s elevated the criminal investigation to a full-blown public health crisis, Sheriff Davis says.
An ever-ticking clock and a host of unknowns has both investigators and health officials scrambling for answers.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the Georgia Department of Public Health said, “Dozens of patients have been hospitalized and there are reports of deaths that may be associated with the drugs, but confirmation is pending.” A second release one day later, warned, “As of this morning, there are reports of six additional overdose cases possibly related to fake Percocet. None of these cases have been confirmed as overdoses related to the street drugs. Georgia Poison Center is currently working with the hospitals and gathering more information to determine whether these additional cases are connected to the cluster of overdoses reported in the past three days.”
State and county investigators are scratching their heads trying to determine the source of the Poison Pills, how they’re being distributed, and what’s in them doing the fatal damage. None of the victims seem to have much in common, Sheriff Davis says, ranging in age from early 20s to 60s. All appear to have ingested the drugs in pill form, he added, with no evidence to suggest the Poison Pills had been ground and snorted or injected.
Though chemical analysis test results haven’t returned, conjecture is the “poison” in the pills could be heroin, oxycodone or fentanyl, which can be absorbed through the skin or even inhaled if it becomes airborne in powder form. Perhaps most widely known as the drug that killed Michael Jackson and presumably Prince, a dose of fentanyl as small as three grains of sand can prove fatal, and national reports reveal the so-called “kill pill” is popping up more and more frequently across the country in counterfeit cocktails.
Just two years ago, fake Percocets sold in Tennessee caused a similar rash of overdoses and deaths, and resulted in a handful of Federal indictments against the “street cooks” making them as well as the distributors selling them. Fentanyl was determined to be the primary chemical agent doing the fatal damage.
“We’ve turned that over to the GBI, to do chemical analysis,” Sheriff Davis says. “All we know about our cases here locally is it appears to be an opiate of some sort,” Sheriff Davis. Right now, local officers are “working backwards” with Georgia Bureau of Investigations to determine the rest. “What we’re trying to break down is whether this is something localized – someone got the raw materials here and manufactured these pills locally, or have these been distributed someplace else?”
Even more ominous is weighing whether the lethal dosing has been deliberate, taking these cases to a “whole new level” of criminality.
“It’s a puzzling thing to us too,” Sheriff Davis says. “You could conjecture it was sinister, that was there intent to do harm to other people, or, more maybe it’s just that these folks are not chemists working in controlled settings using proper equipment and protocols. Rather, they pretty much are grabbing whatever they’ve got on the shelf and mixing it up.”
All lawmen can do for now is continue to issue public warnings about the Poison Pill, work leads coming in, and wait. And that waiting is a nausea-inducing matter of listening for the sound of the other shoe dropping.
“You have to look at this thing like a medical epidemic – are the overdoses that started coming in on Sunday and Monday the sniffles before the flu, or is this a one-time sporadic outbreak?” the Sheriff says. “We don’t know. But the indications are that it’s trailing off, at least here. Another week will have to go by to really see if we get more cases. Then again, we may have another uptick. But it remains to be seen how much of an impact, this community will sustain. But what if they start coming in, say 50 miles from here – the echo of what’s happening here locally?”
Everyone is strongly encouraged to treat these pills or anything resembling them as hazardous. Anyone coming in contact with these pills or anything that looks similar to them is urged to call the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office at 478-751-7500, or Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 1-877-68CRIME.