According to Lieutenant Nick Parker of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement task force, the so-called “Central Oregon opioid epidemic” has expanded to include darknet drugs. Darknet drugs, the Lieutenant explained, encompassed an entire category or counterfeit or “mismatched” pills. The influx of counterfeit pills did not begin with the darknet, but Parker implied the issue had taken off during the last few years when more buses turned to the darknet for their fix.
Parker explained that in his opinion, darknet vendors are intentionally sending counterfeit pills. The alternative, presumably, would be that vendors had been accidentally selling fentanyl-pressed oxycodone pills. In Central Oregon, drug users are getting hooked more easily to harder drugs than they had anticipated. This, he explained, is partially due to darknet vendors and their plans to send “whatever is readily available.”
For two years, Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) had worked on a case where distributors in Asia mailed counterfeit oxycodone pills to Bend, Oregon. The pills contained traces of heroin, but looked like oxy, he explained. Central Oregon seemingly fell behind other states where counterfeit pills had been dominating parts of the opioid game. Law enforcement in other states seized hundreds of thousands of fentanyl-pressed oxycodone pills during the same time period.
Hundreds of case files related to darknet vendors and opioid distribution revealed that vendors infrequently distributed fake pills without any level of awareness. Many vendors openly sold fake pills.
Others may attempt to disguise fake pills by selling high quality fakes, occasionally doing so through their own pill press. Some vendors sell fake heroin. But many sell—plain as day—fentanyl, carfentanil, and even some of the new designer opioids. While direct fentanyl use is not uncommon, these vendors often intend for buyers to redistribute the drug disguised in heroin or pressed into prescription opioid pills.
Parker never mentioned vendors intentionally selling fake opioids (or opiates) for the sake of a much increased profit compared to real pills. Fake pills cost very little to produce, especially when pressed with carfentanil making it similar to hyper-potent opioids. The number of counterfeit pills on the street in Central Oregon has been growing daily, the Lieutenant said.
CODE has been working with the DEA and FBI agents for years now, trying to intercept packages of drugs from the darknet. The majority of opioid interceptions come from suppliers in China, he said. And to that extent, they can only help with preventing deliveries – not catching the overseas supplier. The DEA, in 2016 and 2017, worked with China on shutting down carfentanil labs and ending production of the chemical.
But shutting down a handful of overseas labs failed to stop production or darknet distribution. Many darknet markets, after the flood of fentanyl and carfentanil left a trail of bodies across the US, banned vendors from selling the drugs. Hansa market, for instance, made this move while under law enforcement control in July.