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75 cents to numb the pain: Tucsonans share their addiction stories

The street price for one fentanyl pill is 75 cents to $2. Getting high is cheap and easy, people in recovery say getting clean is difficult but not impossible.
Posted at 3:43 PM, May 22, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — In Arizona, an average of more than five people die a day from overdoses, and there are tens of thousands of opioid-related hospitalizations every year.

Each of those numbers represent a person, and a story. Tucsonans are in all different phases of addiction recovery, and trying to get their lives back on track.

“Fentanyl and meth, we do like five [pills] each a day," Holly Wall and Brandon Kennedy said. "It numbs you. It numbs your pain.”

Holly and Brandon
Holly and Brandon

Wall and Kennedy are in active addiction, currently living on the streets in Tucson, hoping to get clean.

“That’s the scariest thing for all of us, is how you feel when you’re getting off of it. It is so hard, for days," Wall said.

Getting high is as easy as smoking one pill, and the addiction is cheap.

“It’s like 75 cents; two dollars at the most," they said.

Getting back on track is possible. Robert is a veteran who spent a decade addicted to pain killers and selling drugs in Tucson.


“People suggested to me to try rehab, and I pushed them off, saying it’s not the way I do it," he said.

Then Robert got busted for selling drugs, and a judge offered him a chance at rehab instead of a prison sentence.

“Getting to rehab, and just feeling it, I was like oh my gosh, this is what I needed. It was incredible,” Robert said.

Staying clean is the goal. Darren Mangan and Anthony Noperi are clean for the first time in their adult lives.

Anthony Noperi and Darren Mangan

“I never thought I was going to get out," Mangan said.

“I ended up in ICU,” Noperi said.“I’ve suffered a lot. I’ve done 12 years in prison for my addiction.”

Noperi and Mangan now work helping others get out of the cycle of addiction. They're case workers at Changing Lanes Recovery, the same organization that helped them get clean.

They both say even in the darkest of times, recovery is possible.

“I didn’t have any role models. Or anyone that I knew that had been able to escape addiction," Mangan said. "So I just want people to know it is possible.”

“It’s possible. For an addict like me to get clean. I’m a testament to the fact anything is possible. That’s all I got to say," Noperi said.

Addiction help resources are available through Pima County and the City of Tucson.

Adam Klepp is a reporter for KGUN 9. At his previous station in Yuma, Adam focused on a range of local issues including the border, water rights and healthcare. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and attended both Loyola University Chicago and Syracuse University. Share your story ideas and important issues with Adam by emailing or by connecting on Twitter.