Local News

Counterfeit Drugs Are on the Rise in Cumberland County

Posted February 17, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Police have a hard enough time keeping a handle on illegal drugs. Now pushers are turning to a new trick to earn a quick buck. They are selling counterfeit drugs, but police warn they could be as deadly as the real ones.

Narcotics officers say there is a perceived shortage of crack and cocaine on the streets. Fayetteville and Cumberland County authorities have charged more than a dozen people with selling fake drugs in the last two weeks alone.

Many common household items including drywall, bread and pebbles are being passed as real drugs. Investigators say the fakes are leading to violence.

"When a person buys one of these substances expecting to get high, they leave the area where they bought the dope and find out it's a substance they can't smoke. They'll go back and retaliate by either shooting or beating the person up that sold it to them if they can find them," says Fayetteville Police Lt. Richard Bryant.

Bryant says there is a law on the books that makes it a crime to sell counterfeit drugs.

"If the person sells the confidential source, counterfeit drugs, then we'll take up charges on that person," he said.

Local emergency room doctors say they have seen an increase in the number of drug users who have taken the fake substances.

"Depending upon the ingredients, you could have complications both locally both in your nose or throat, but also more systematically - pulmonary wise especially people who are susceptible with asthma or other lung disease," says Dr. Keith Henderson.

Henderson says ingesting or smoking a fake drug can even lead to death.

"Some of the chemicals for example in laundry detergent would be extremely abrasive," he said. "They may also be extremely alkaline to cause chemical burns."

Selling counterfeit drugs is a felony and comes with the same penalty as pushing real drugs.