There’s a new pill on the streets of Arizona, leaving teens dead and others with brain damage. The pills are called M-30s, and they are laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and 100 times stronger than morphine.
LoVecchio says he see the destruction from the drug every day, and he relates someone taking it to playing Russian Roulette.
“This one you’re going to die from. This one you’re not going to die from. And you’re relying on a drug dealer to actually be a chemist.”
The drugs are made in Mexico, and no two pills are the same. They’re made in makeshift laboratories and garages; that’s what makes them so dangerous.
“From what I’ve been told from kids, it’s south in Mexico. You know, they’re being made down there in some lab,” says a police officer from San Luis, Benjamin Gomez.
“The thing is, there’s some chemist there dropping each little drop into these pills. And sometimes more than one drop will go on there and that pill will cause that (overdose).”
Gomez is currently working as a school resource officer at San Luis High School, and his job is to keep M-30 pills out of the high school.
Last year, there were 16 overdoses from the drug. In 2019, there have already been 15 overdoses.
“We’ve had one death already, a 17-year-old kid who overdosed on that,” says Lt. Marco Santana, another officer from San Luis.
According to him, the pills are easily to smuggle and even easier to sell.
“Based on what we’ve gathered, it’s about $10 to $12 per pill.”
Teenagers are at the highest risk of being exposed to the drug.
“Actually, the majority of the calls have been teenagers. We’re looking at the high school population, 15, 16, 17-year-olds,” says Luis Cabreros, a firefighter and paramedic from San Luis.
The epidemic is impacting other parts of the state as well.
Deaths have taken place in Tucson, Prescott Valley, and Phoenix. Police officers are saying to assume that all pills are laced with the drug.
“Unfortunately, the stamp of the M-30 brings up a Percocet. However, if you’re getting it off the street, you don’t know,” says a poison informatics coordinator at Banner Poison Information Center, Schmid.
Schmid hypothesizes that the drug is so prevalent due to Arizona’s crackdown on opioids. It’s easier to get them off the street than at the doctor’s office.
The scary part is that it’s so rampant with high schoolers. A student from a prestigious school, Notre Dame Preparatory School, was arrested for giving a M-30 pill to a student. The student overdosed and was given NARCAN. The student is expected to recover. While this instance was favorable for the student, not all cases turn out this way. Fentanyl cuts off the brain’s oxygen supply because it affects the respiratory system.
“If you’ve been down for over four to five minutes, chances are high that you’re going to have some degree of brain damage and not be the same,” says LoVecchio.
The district that includes San Luis High School has begun giving NARCAN to school health officials. It has saved at least one life already.
Over 750 parents showed up at a meeting to discuss the drug.
“Parents were wondering if the school can check backpacks, if police can bring the canine units to the school,” says Ruben Escobar, the head of the PTO.
“It’s for sure an epidemic that we’re facing in our small community,” he continues.