Arizona Overdose Deaths Skyrocket in 2020

Spilled pill bottle on table top with a spoon underneath

New data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Arizonans turned to fatal doses of painkillers and other drugs amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a much higher rate than in other years. 

Overdose deaths in Arizona increased 33% to 2,743 from February 2020 to April 2021. Overdoses across the country increased 34% over the same time period. The change is a sharp uptick from years prior. From January 2015 to January 2020, the overdose death rate increased by 18%. 

According to CDC data, synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl accounted for nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is multiple times more potent than typical painkillers such as Oxycontin. The powerful opioid has become a popular drug to manufacture for the black market to smuggle across the southern border into California and Arizona, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Arizona Law Enforcement Officers Seize Deadly Amounts of Fentanyl, Heroin

3,000 fentanyl pills extracted from a car by Arizona Department of Public Safety

In just two traffic stops, Arizona law enforcement officials seized dozens of pounds of heroin and thousands of fentanyl pills.

On Interstate 10, troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety conducted a traffic stop on a truck, finding 35 pounds of packaged heroin concealed within the pickup.

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Arizona State Troopers Find $2 Million in Fentanyl, Meth During Traffic Stop Outside Tucson

Heston Silbert

Troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety on Thursday seized over $1.7 million in illegal drugs while performing a traffic stop Thursday.

The stop, performed on Interstate 10 near Marana outside of Tuscon, produced 34 pounds of fentanyl pills hidden in the vehicle. Additionally, law enforcement officers obtained a warrant to search a separate vehicle.

In the second vehicle, authorities discovered over 37 additional pounds of fentanyl pills, 8 pounds of methamphetamine, 7 pounds of heroin, and 4.95 pounds of an unknown substance.

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Commentary: The Migrant Surge at the Southern Border Fuels Massive American Fentanyl Overdoses

On a September afternoon, Allyssia Solorio wondered why her energetic young brother hadn’t emerged from his bedroom in their Sacramento, Calif., home. When she opened his door, she saw 23-year-old Mikael leaning back on his bed with his legs dangling over the side. She rushed to her brother and shook him, but to no avail. He was dead. A counterfeit pharmaceutical pill laced with illicit fentanyl had killed him.

Mikael Tirado was one of an estimated 93,331 overdose fatalities in the United States last year – an all-time high. Nearly five times the murder rate, the deadly overdose toll was primarily caused by fentanyl, a highly lethal synthetic opioid. It’s manufactured mostly by Mexican cartels with ingredients imported from China, and then smuggled over the southwestern U.S. border. Fentanyl has been arriving in larger quantities each year since at least 2016.

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In One Year, Encounters Triple with Migrants Attempting to Cross Southern Border Illegally

In one year, Customs and Border Protection agents encountered triple the number of people entering the U.S. illegally compared to the previous year. From October 2020 to September 2021, 1,734,686 people were encountered at the U.S. southern border.

From October 2019 to September 2020, that number was 458,088.

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Arizona Border Patrol Seizes 50 Pounds of Fentanyl

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the Tucson Sector Wednesday announced that it had seized a massive quantity of the extremely lethal drug fentanyl. 

“U.S. Border Patrol agents working the Interstate 19 Immigration Checkpoint near Amado, Arizona, seized over 50 pounds of suspected fentanyl and arrested the driver of the vehicle Monday morning,” a CBP press release said. 

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Snapchat Tries to Stop Users from Buying Fentanyl on Its Platform, but It’s ‘Too Little Too Late’ for Some

Snapchat is putting in place new safety measures to try and stop young users buying and selling fentanyl on its platform, the company announced Thursday.

The company unveiled an in-app education portal called “Heads Up” in a blog post Thursday designed to provide young users with information from substance abuse advocacy groups including Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on the dangers of fentanyl. Snapchat also said it is planning on adding health information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in the coming weeks.

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U.S. Authorities Seize 1.8 Million Illicit Pills Laced with Fentanyl, Point to Social Media for Rising Drug Traffic

U.S. authorities criticized social media for an uptick in drug trafficking following a massive seizure of over a million fentanyl-laced pills and hundreds of drug dealer arrests.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Monday that it, alongside various law enforcement partners, seized over 1.8 million fake pills laced with fentanyl and arrested over 800 alleged drug dealers over the course of a two-month drug bust beginning in August. Authorities have criticized social media companies that have failed to stop the sale of these illicit drugs on their platforms.

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More Lethal Fentanyl Found Along the Southern Border this Year Than Last

Federal authorities have seized significantly more fentanyl along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and California since October than they did in the entire 2020 fiscal year.

Since October, authorities have seized 7.000 pounds of the drug, compared to just 4,500 pounds in the entire last fiscal year, according to data from Customs and Boarder Protection. The reasoning, according to authorities, is simply supply and demand.

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Commentary: Fentanyl Is Spreading Like Wildfire

Fentanyl

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 6,494 pounds of fentanyl in the first four months of 2021. This is much higher than the 4,776 pounds seized in all of 2020. While it is impressive that CBP has removed this much of the deadly drug from the market, the majority of the fentanyl brought into the U.S. is not seized, and increasing amounts of fentanyl are reaching Americans. The drug, a synthetic opioid, was invented in 1960 for medical applications and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. In recent years, Mexico-based criminal organizations have been manufacturing the highly addictive drug, often mixed with other substances, and distributing it throughout the United States.

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Border Officials Seized More Fentanyl in the First Four Months of 2021 Than During the Same Period in 2020

Border officials seized nearly 2,400 more pounds of fentanyl from January to April 2021 than during the same period in 2020, according to Customs and Border Protection.

Officials seized nearly 3,290 pounds of fentanyl in the first four months of 2021 compared to around 920 pounds in the same timeframe of 2020, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Border officials seized a total of 7,300 pounds of fentanyl from January to December 2020.

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