Skip to content

Student Health Services

Other Drugs

Opioid/Fentanyl Poisoning and Counterfeit Pills

On September 27, 2021, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a PSA regarding counterfeit pills. These pills are made to look like prescription opioids or stimulant medications, but in reality contain lethal amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Both international and domestic drug networks are producing and spreading these counterfeit pills across the United States, showing up in every state and region thus far. As a result, these counterfeit pills have been associated with recent overdoses in local communities; more than 59.6 million fentanyl-laced fake pills were seized by the end of 2022.

It’s important to note that this does not apply to legitimate prescription medications from medical professionals and pharmacists.

To protect yourself and others from potential consumption of counterfeit pills, visit the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill website. You’ll find information on how to differentiate authentic prescription pills and counterfeit pills. It’s also important to know this distinction due to the current national shortage of naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Other ways to keep yourself and others safe includes continued safe use and disposal of prescription drugs. Remember, only take medication that has been prescribed to you by a medical professional at the correct dosage. Do not share or buy medications. Call 911 for help if you believe someone is experiencing an overdose.

For more information, go to the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill website or their counterfeit pills fact sheet.

Prescription Opioids

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, with some made from the plant directly and others synthesized in labs. Opioids are used as a medication to relieve moderate to severe pain, in addition to other medical uses. However, opioids also create effects of relaxation and obtaining a “high.” These effects can lead to using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons. Non-medical use can be dangerous due to risk of addiction, overdose and death. 

Common prescription opioids:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Heroin is another opioid chemically similar to prescription opioids and can produce a similar high. However, it is unregulated and carries more risk than prescription opioids.

  • Misuse of Prescription Opioids

    What counts as misuse of prescription opioids?

    • Taking the medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed

    • Taking someone else's prescription medicine

    • Taking the medicine for the effect it causes (i.e. to get high)

    Be sure to follow your provider’s instructions when taking prescription opioids, and call if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Fentanyl

    Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid used in the treatment of severe pain. Two types of fentanyl exist, and both are considered synthetic opioids:

    • Pharmaceutical fentanyl:

      • A doctor-prescribed medicine used primarily for cancer patients and major surgery patients who are experiencing severe pain

      • Sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who have developed a physical tolerance to other opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

    • Illegally manufactured fentanyl (IMF):

      • A heroin-like drug sold on the illicit drug market that is highly potent and addictive

      • According to the CDC, In 2022, provisional data indicated that more than two thirds (68%) of the reported 107,081 drug overdose deaths in the United States involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, principally illicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs)
      • It comes in a liquid and a powder, and unfortunately, it’s not easy to distinguish between fentanyl and other drugs – that’s part of what makes it so easy to mix IMF into other drugs, like cocaine or MDMA

    In addition, other synthetic opioids are being made to mimic fentanyl. These are known as fentanyl analogs and can range from less potent to 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

    How to Stay Safe from Fentanyl

    Fentanyl test strips:

    • Check for the presence of fentanyl in any drug by using test strips, which can test injectable drugs, powders and pills.

    • Test strips are becoming more widely available. DanceSafe, a public health non-profit that tests drugs on-site at festivals, concerts and other events, offers fentanyl test strips for sale on their website. Other popular vendors like Amazon and Walmart have also started to carry test strips online.

    If a drug tests positive, the FDA recommends disposing of fentanyl by flushing it down the toilet. Because of its potency, putting it in the garbage could lead to accidental poisoning of a child or pet if they end up in contact with it.

  • Life-Saving Tips

    Using the drugs listed above falls into the category of high-risk behavior. Here are some risk-reducing tips to keep in mind:

    • If you’re going to use drugs, never use drugs alone. Use with someone else who has naloxone (see below) and can call 911 if an overdose happens.

    • Make sure you have access to naloxone. A drug called naloxone (also called naltrexone or Narcan®) can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. If you or someone you care about uses any type of recreational drug, having this on hand can help prevent death by overdose.

    Naloxone (Narcan®) Availability & Opioid Emergency Kits
  • How to Recognize an Overdose/Poisoning

    Recognizing an opioid overdose/poisoning can be difficult. If you aren’t sure, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – you could save a life. Signs of an overdose/poisoning may include:

    • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
    • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
    • Slow, shallow breathing
    • Choking or gurgling sounds
    • Limp body
    • Pale, blue or cold skin
  • What to Do If Someone Has Opioid Poisoning | Naloxone (Narcan®)

    Take the following steps if you suspect someone has opioid poisoning:

      1. Immediately call 911. 

        • Most states have laws that may protect a person who is overdosing or the person who called for help from legal trouble.

        • Clemson University has a Medical Amnesty Policy (MAP).

      2. If available, administer naloxone (Narcan®). Naloxone quickly reverses an overdose/poisoning by blocking the effects of opioids. It can restore normal breathing within 2 to 3 minutes in a person whose breath has slowed, or even stopped, as a result of opioid overdose/poisoning. More than one dose of naloxone may be required when stronger opioids like fentanyl are involved. Naloxone won’t harm someone if they’re overdosing on drugs other than opioids, so it’s always best to use it if you think someone is overdosing.

      3. Keep the person who has overdosed awake and breathing. Speak to them to make sure they’re conscious.

      4. Roll the person who has overdosed onto their side to prevent choking.

      5. Remain with the person until emergency services have arrived.


Xylazine (street name "Tranq") is a non-opioid, large animal veterinary tranquilizer that acts as a central nervous system depressant or sedative in humans. Xylazine is frequently cut into the drug supply — mainly with fentanyl and other opioids — and increases the risk of experiencing an overdose as well as drug-related wounds, including skin ulcers, abscesses and other related complications.

Xylazine has already been linked to a number of overdoses across the United States. While responders recommend administering naloxone, it will only reverse the effects of the opioids present. Naloxone will not impact the sedative effects that xylazine has on breathing. Thus, moving someone into the recovery position (laying on their side with no obstructions in their mouth or airway) after administering naloxone is essential for a person’s safety following an overdose.

Student Health Services
Student Health Services | Redfern Health Center, 735 McMillan Road, Clemson, SC 29634