Click here to learn about other counterfeit drug incidents in Arizona

Reports coming in from Arizona paint a worrisome picture in the state’s battle against counterfeit fentanyl pills. As the Daily Miner reported, fake Xanax pills made with fentanyl have been reported in Kingman, a town of approximately 30,000. In an interview with Cronkite News, DEA special agent in charge Doug Coleman said that Arizona is the tip of the drug trafficking spear and if you want to know what will happen in the rest of the U.S., see what has been happening in Arizona. Coleman said, “Here in Arizona, we have seen a 2,000 percent increase in the amount of fentanyl powder and a 3,000 percent increase in the amount of fentanyl pills.”

Despite seizures increasing, the number of overdose deaths has also continued to rise. The Arizona Department of Health Services estimates that the state saw almost 1,500 suspected opioid deaths in 2017. The most recent figures available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are for 2016 with opioids claiming 115 American lives every day. It is believed that fentanyl being so profitable for the drug cartels paired with people considering pills to be a less risky thing to abuse helped to create the counterfeit fentanyl pill crisis. Coleman said, “Users buy these pills from a third party, on the street, and are told that they are strong oxy or hydro and pop three, because that’s how they are used to taking them, and that’s when it can be too much.”

News 4 Tucson said their investigators learned of dealers selling counterfeit Xanax and oxycodone made with fentanyl. Tucson Police Captain John Leavitt said, “They don’t understand that what they’re getting is not safe.” Controlled purchases made by members of the Counter-Narcotics Alliance over the past 18 months all showed the same result. “Everything we’ve bought is actually a counterfeit pill made with fentanyl.” Dr. Aaron Wilson, Chief Medical Officer at a residential treatment program, summed up the threat posed by fentanyl as this: “Somebody’s first experience with a synthetic opioid could be their last.”

Arizona is just one of over 43 states that PSM has documented confirmed instances of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. You can read more about it here.