Opioid deaths double and border seizures of smuggled fentanyl up 600 percent over last year.
Nearly 140 pounds of the synthetic opioid were seized this year at Arizona’s ports, enough deadly doses for almost 32 million adults, and enough to make traffickers up to $1.3 billion.
More than half, 550 pounds, of the 950 pounds total fentanyl was seized at the San Diego and Tucson Field Offices on the Mexico border from October 2016 through July 2017. At the El Paso Field Office, about four pounds of fentanyl were seized in those 10 months and no fentanyl seizures were reported at the Laredo Field Office.
The number of people who died from overdoses of fentanyl and fentanyl variations in the U.S. doubled from last January to this January, from 9,945 to 20,145, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Pima County, 13 people died by fentanyl overdose in the first six months of 2017. In his quarterly report, Chief Medical Examiner Greg Hess predicted about 270 overdose deaths from different drugs by the end of 2017 in Pima County, with over 20 of them involving fentanyl. This would be an increase from the 16 overdose deaths from fentanyl in the county last year.
Read more about how smugglers create their entry routes in The Arizona Daily Star investigation.
Dignity Health officials conducted an online survey over the summer to gain a better understanding of the potential for opioid abuse among teens. The results are sobering.
One in four Arizona teenagers prescribed opioids such as OxyContin or codeine has used the highly addictive pain medications in ways not directed by a doctor, according to the survey.
Dignity Health’s survey of 313 teens and 201 parents in Arizona also found that 56 percent of teens view opioid abuse as a serious problem. A similar percentage of teens said binge drinking is a serious problem. More teens — 64 percent — cited bullying as a serious problem.
Arizona has declared opioid abuse a public-health emergency, saying it killed an average of more than two Arizonans every day in 2016. The Arizona Department of Health Services has proposed a sweeping plan to counter the epidemic with steps such as limiting initial pain-pill fills to five days, targeting “pill mills” that dispense pain medication regardless of need, and requiring doctors to complete three hours of opioid-related education.
The Arizona Daily Star quotes Dr. Sandra Indermuhle, Chandler Regional Medical Center’s director of emergency services:
We do see teenagers who have taken pills from a friend at school or from a parent’s medicine cabinet. They are naive to the medication.
Read more about Arizona teens and use of prescription opioids in The Arizona Daily Star.