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Opioid overdoses continue to rise in Arizona

Tucson leaders working to end the epidemic
Posted at 3:14 PM, Mar 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 19:19:25-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — A new report from the Arizona Department of Health Services showed far more people are overdosing from drugs across the state.

"I think people really need to know how addictive these substances are,” said Mark Person, Program Manager at the Pima County Health Department.

Every shift, every day first responders with the Tucson Fire Department arrive on a scene with a full dose of Narcan. Over the past 20 months more than 11,000 doses have been administered in Arizona to offset the effects of opoid overdoses.

"The brain is the most sensitive organ to oxygen deprivation and that's what opioids do, they stop you from breathing,” explained Captain James Cosmas with the TPD.

According to the ADHS in the fourth quarter of 2018 the number of overdoses doubled from the year before. Officials say drugs are becoming more potent and officers with the Tucson Police department say people who are addicted can develop a tolerance even to the more potent drugs. Sometimes even using multiple drugs at once to get high.

"What I see that is really disturbing is kids are willing to take stuff that they don't even know what it is and that's a real hazard,” explained Cosmas.

Since June of 2017 more than 2,500 people in the state have died from suspected opioids. City leaders say its vital to spread education and awareness to the community.

"Things like save storage of medication, whether or not you have kids in the house if you have an opioid type medication it should be locked and never shared,” Person said.

By the end of April, Pima County Police Department hopes to have every officer patrolling the streets armed with Narcan.