BEND, OR -- The opioid epidemic in Central Oregon has expanded to include drugs purchased on the Dark Web, but unlike pharmaceutical grade drugs, these may not be exactly what the buyer thinks they are.
Lieutenant Nick Parker, with Central Oregon Drug Enforcement, says most of the drugs come from China or other parts of Asia and there's no way to know, for sure, what you're getting. "Over the last couple years, we worked an investigation with CODE where counterfeit heroin pills were obtained. They were planned to be sent to Bend, we intercepted them before they got here. They were stamped with the markings for Oxycodone, and they turned out to be heroin."
Parker says he thinks the pills are intentionally mismarked, as these particular buyers were looking for Oxy, so he believes that the Dark Web dealers simply send whatever they have readily available, which can result in someone's becoming more addicted to a stronger drug than whatever they believed they were taking. Still the Dark Web is becoming increasingly popular with recreational buyers. "For the most part, when they're using the Dark Web to get opioid type medications, or prescription pills, they're using it for abuse."
Parker says in addition to the inability to track Dark Web transactions, one huge problem is that buyers don't always get what they ordered, which is dangerous. "I do worry about the availability of this stuff, and not knowing what they're getting, definitely a huge concern. And it's growing daily. We're seeing it more and more."
Parker says his department, CODE, has been working with the FBI and the DEA for several years to intercept shipments coming from China before they reach Central Oregon, and they've met with several successes, but for those that do get through, there's no consumer recourse for a mismarked pill. "It's unfortunate with these cases because it's pretty difficult. We work, obviously, closely with the DEA and FBI and they help in the different regions, but they can only enforce and help us with so much, especially in China and Asia."
Parker says one of the worst parts about the impostor opioids is that the unsuspecting user may be taking a drug that is stronger than the one they were expecting, like heroin instead of oxycodone, and that can lead to overdoses and even death.