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DEA working to curb fentanyl availability as overdose deaths rise

Posted: 9:22 PM, Apr 14, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-15 07:45:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — "It's terrifying is what it is," said DEA Special Agent in Charge, Cheri Oz. "They're in your community, they're in your neighborhood right now."

For the second year in a row, fentanyl contributed to the greatest number of overdose deaths in Pima County. The 334 deaths from fentanyl in 2021 is a 40% increase from the year before.

Fentanyl overdose deaths in Pima County

"42% of these pills are lethal. We know that," said Special Agent Oz. "So for every pill we seize that's potentially a life that's saved. Two out of five pills will kill you, we know this."

Those fentanyl pills continue to flow across the border, keeping DEA agents busy.

"We are seizing more and more pills every day. So far this year, since January 1, we have seized over four million pills. Which is incredible, considering three years ago we didn't seize that number all year," Special Agent Oz said.

She says the DEA needs parents to get involved and educate their kids on the dangers of synthetic opioids.

"We need everyone's help," said Oz. "We need the conversation to be in your own home."

She points out a trend we've reported on recently. Mexican drug cartels are targeting young people, often through social media.

"They're using emojis to communicate and to sell this deadly poison," Special Agent Oz said. "There is a toolkit on for parents, care givers, everyone to go on line and to look at the decoder for these emojis. So you have an idea, you can part of the solution within your kids own phones."

DEA Emojis

The DEA also sponsors a national prescription drug "take back day." On April 30, there will be 51 locations across the state for you to drop off any old prescription drugs.

RELATED: Advocates push for Pima County to localize International Overdose Awareness Day

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.