Drug overdose deaths are surging in metro Atlanta and across Georgia.

Fake pain pills from China may be more deadly

Drug overdose deaths are surging in metro Atlanta and across Georgia.

Part of the problem is counterfeit — yet stronger — drugs smuggled in through the Port of Savannah, according to Channel 2 Action News.

Federal officers at the Port of Savannah are looking for such fake pills that are designed to look like painkillers.

The drugs are often more potent and potentially deadly.

Fentanyl is a deadly opioid 50 times stronger than morphine. In pill form, it’s made to look like Oxycontin or other prescribed painkillers.

Chuck Miller told Channel 2 his son died after taking just two fentanyl pills.

“You never expect your son to die before you do,” Miller said. “There’s not an hour that goes by that I don’t think about it.”

Customs officer Lisa Beth Brown told Channel 2 they inspect containers on incoming ships, looking for what she called “high-risk shipments.”

The goal is to check the seals and see if any have been tampered with.

“Sometimes, we’ll just open what we can open,” Kelly Graham of Customs and Border Patrol said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

In addition to on-board inspections, officers scan containers with an X-ray machine.

“We’re basically looking for anomalies — something that’s out of the norm,” Vontez Ferguson of Customs and Border Patrol said. “That could be drugs, or something that is not manifested correctly.”

If the X-ray detects something suspicious packed deep in the container, it’s taken to a warehouse to be unpacked.

Brown, the area port director, said the effort to intercept synthetic drugs is gaining urgency as the death toll rises.

“What we are looking for is anything that could be a threat to our safety, security or health in the United States,” Brown said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.