News10NBC Investigates Poison pills: ‘They’re all fake. They’re all deadly’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Most teenagers are not using historically dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine. They’re using what they think are painkillers

The street pills are made to look like real painkillers, but they might as well be bullets in a gun.

Many of them are the same color and same size with the same stamp as real prescription pills.

Jim Wesley was a scientist in the Monroe County Crime Lab. He’s devoted his retirement to stopping young people from dying from fake pills.

“Oxy, 30 milligrams, which are M with a square around it and 30s, look exactly like the legit pills,” Wesley said. “And the kids don’t know this. They go to a legitimate website — pill identifier. They type in the imprint, they look at it and think, ‘oh it’s just like it, I guess it’s okay.’ They’re all fake. They’re all deadly.”

Wesley has a 28 page report on deadly fake pills.

Brean, News10NBC: “If could only show a parent one page in this report, what page would it be?”

Jim Wesley: “Page 17.”

Page 17 shows the link between teen drug deaths and fake pills recovered by police. The number of deaths went from 492 in 2019 to 1,146 in 2022.

The number of fake pills confiscated by police went from two million in 2019 to 50 million in 2022.

“So it makes sense to me why the death rate doubled, doubled in a three year period,” he said.

When Wesley talks to parents he brings up three successful and healthy people who died after taking a fake pill. The list includes major league pitcher Tyler Skaggs who overdosed after he taking what he thoughts was Oxycodone.

And Prince who died after taking what he thought was Vicodin.

Brean: “So it sounds like one of the things you’re trying to impart on parents is if Prince can’t get safe, legitimate pills, who can?”

Wesley: “If Prince and Skaggs cannot get legit pills a high school (student) has a zero chance of getting a legit pill.”

Brean asked Wesley where teenagers get fake prescription pills. He said sometimes they’re bought on the street. Sometimes teenagers order them through their social media accounts.