Legal test strip distribution underway in Arizona as synthetic opioid crisis rages

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill in 2021 to legalize test strips that can detect fentanyl in drugs as the state grapples with the opioid crisis and A wave of fentanyl pours into the country.

Law enforcement called the southern border the gateway.

spokesman Arizona The Department of Health Services said the $100,000 federal opioid grant is key to delivering fentanyl test strips to several participating counties. Test strips are designed to be an overdose prevention tool and a lifesaver for drug addicts.

Nick Baker survived a fentanyl overdose in September 2017.

“When I got to the hospital, they told my parents, ‘We can’t keep his heart going. We don’t know what he ate and you should sort his things out, it’s not looking good,'” Baker said.

He knew he had used heroin that night and thought it contained fentanyl.

Baker, a former football player, said he was dependent on painkillers and took drugs and alcohol.

“I met my opponent and I was beaten, but at the time I was so disconnected from reality. The only thing I knew what to do was to escape this emotional feeling as fast as I could. So 24 hours after I was discharged from the hospital, I The excitement is back,” he said.

After waking up from a week-long coma, Baker embarked on a months-long journey to sobriety. He moved from Massachusetts to Arizona, where his life changed and he ended up getting clean.

“When I discovered the real purpose of my pain, I stopped looking for solutions, you know, drugs, alcohol,” he said.

tomorrow: Arizona Drug Enforcement: Some of Our Recent Largest Seizures

The Fentanyl Crisis, So Far

How effective is fentanyl? 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says two milligrams are considered a lethal dose based on a person’s size and tolerance.

Synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. increased 23 percent between 2020 and 2021, from 57,834 to 71,238. During the same period, in Arizona, synthetic opioid overdose deaths rose from 1,519 to 1,791.

In both years, 65% of deaths occurred in Maricopa County, totaling 2,170.

Synthetic opioid overdose deaths in Arizona increased between 2020 and 2021.

Fentanyl is ‘everywhere’

“So this year, we’ve seized over 1,200 pounds of fentanyl,” said Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sgt. Jesus Gastron.

That’s already more than 830 pounds in 2021.

The constant traffic jams have resulted in large numbers of fentanyl pills hidden behind bags, suitcases or car parts.

“There are higher numbers, and we notice them on I-10 in the Tucson area or the Casa Grande or somewhere in between,” Gastlum said.

The drugs are mostly trafficked across the border from Mexico, and Arizona is not the only destination, he said.

“They’re going everywhere. They can go from the border all the way to Phoenix, or they can go from here to Colorado or Chicago. Anywhere,” Gastrem said.

Despite the department’s shortfall of at least 315 sworn officers, DPS has seized more fentanyl than ever before. This is the biggest shortage since 2018.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jesus Gastron.

Why test strips?

“Anyone who goes out on a weekend to smoke cocaine or buy Xanax or buy Percocet, a simple swab can tell you, ‘Hey, if you’re completely naive about opiates, this will stop your heart and kill you,'” Baker warns.

He volunteers with the Aris Foundation, a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Work begins at the warehouse, and on Tuesday night, his team will distribute clothes, toiletries and other resources.

Baker also tried to keep homeless people alive, handing out Narcan and fentanyl test strips.

While Narcan can reverse an opioid overdose, fentanyl test strips can detect contamination in the substance, so it won’t be taken accidentally. However, fentanyl test strips have only been legal in Arizona since September 2021.

Baker has been working with the state’s health services to consistently obtain batches of fentanyl test strips.

“If we don’t use these resources, the problem will only get worse,” he said.

A surge in testing of potential drugs

Adrian Pittington is the lab manager at Sonictest Labs, where we were able to see how the test strips work.

“The presence of a line most of the time means almost every test I’ve seen is negative. The absence of a line means a positive,” he said.

In just a few minutes, we were able to determine that the oxycodone sample was free of fentanyl.

Lab managers say many employers now require testing for fentanyl.

“Probably the most surprising change was that suddenly everyone started asking me to test for fentanyl,” Pittington said.

What’s next?

Baker went on to ask for more test strips and Nalkan to keep those battling addiction alive so he could make a life-changing connection.

“How do we get more people to have a conversation? It’s really simple, right? Have a conversation,” he said.

So far, the state has distributed test strips to six counties: Pima, Coconino, Mohave, Cochise, Navajo and Yavapai. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is currently working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund widespread use of test strips in Arizona’s most populous county.

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