Reports Of Fentanyl Found In All Kinds Of Drugs In Arizona

By Will Stone
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 12:22pm
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 1:13pm
Department of the Interior
In May of 2018, the Department of Interior said it's seized nearly 10,000 fentanyl pills and other drugs during a weeklong operation on Arizona tribal land.

Concerns about the highly potent opioid fentanyl are on the rise in Arizona.

Across the country, deaths from fentanyl have skyrocketed in recent years.

But Arizona appeared to be holding off the “tidal wave” of deaths compared to places like the Midwest and New England. Only about 10 percent of fatal overdoses in Arizona between last summer and this summer involved fentanyl, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

That could be changing.

Arizona health officials saw an increase in reported fentanyl deaths this summer, in part, due to new testing procedures.

Fentanyl can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“We have been receiving positive reports all over the state in all kinds of drugs,” Haley Coles, director of the nonprofit Sonoran Prevention Works, said.

Coles said this includes “black tar heroin, China white heroin, cocaine and meth.”

She said the spread of fentanyl into street drugs has caused many drug users to change their behaviors.

“People say they make sure not to use alone. They use less. Some are so freaked out that they are switching suppliers,” Coles said.   

Since June, Coles’ organization has been distributing thousands of fentanyl test strips to drug users in Arizona.

More than 250 have come back positive for fentanyl.

Coles believes fentanyl has been more widespread in Arizona than the data has necessarily shown. Arizona law enforcement has also seized large quantities of fentanyl in pill form.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery told KJZZ earlier this year that fentanyl is being shipped from China and then drug cartels are transporting it across the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Someone who has that opioid addiction and goes to purchase what they believe is an oxycodone pill off the street could instead be getting something that’s all fentanyl and deaths can and will likely result,” Montgomery said.

Nearly 950 people died from opioid overdoses in Arizona last year — about a 20 percent increase from the year before.

While a small amount of fentanyl can be fatal, federal safety officials say skin contact is “not expected to lead to harmful effects” if the drug is promptly washed off.

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