As Fentanyl overdoses continue to grow across the US, first responders across Arizona are seeing more calls related to the drug. Pharmaceutical Fentanyl was intended for pain management treatment of cancer patients. But, now it’s being combined with other street drugs, like heroin, to enhance potency. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approximately 100 times stronger than morphine.
Captain Rob McDade with the Phoenix Fire Department said, “We are just up to our shoulders in these calls, before we were down by our ankles. The young, the teenage, young professionals, the older generation. It seems like nobody is safe from this crisis.”
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Fentanyl is one of the deadliest drugs in the state accounting for 29% of all overdoses last year, and 75 fatalities in the month of December alone.
Dr. Jeffrey Johnston, Chief Medical Examiner for Maricopa County explained that people buying mislabeled or unknown pills is a common, yet deadly mistake. “We have seen our Fentanyl deaths double each year since 2016. They are stamped like oxycodone, but instead it is Fentanyl, which is much more potent. So it really changes the dynamic a lot,” he stated.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency in 2017 to address the epidemic. His office recommended some solutions to help stop opioid addictions across the state. They plan to collecting better, more immediate data concerning overdoses. He also signed legislation aimed allowing pharmacists to dispense medication to certain individuals who suffer from addiction.