JammedUp News

News

DEA: More than 30 deaths in Arizona county linked to Fentanyl supplied by drug cartel

March 25, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
DEA: More than 30 deaths in Arizona county linked to Fentanyl supplied by drug cartel IMage provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Are you in a legal jam? Find a Lawyer, Bail Bondsman or Private Investigator on JammedUp.

Over 30 deaths in Maricopa County, Arizona were caused by counterfeit prescription drugs laced with the lethal drug fentanyl that had entered Arizona through Mexico, the U.S. DEA revealed on Tuesday.

The 32 fatal overdoses in the county, which occurred between May 2015 to February 2017, were allegedly from black-market pills laced with illegal fentanyl, an opioid that is reported to be 100 times more potent than morphine.

According to the DEA’s 2016 Threat Assessment Report, the drug is responsible for at least 44 deaths in the U.S. daily.

Although pharmaceutical fentanyl is legal in the U.S. for cancer treatment in those with severe chronic pain, illegally manufactured variants of the synthetic opioid are often laced with heroin or cocaine, according to the CDC.

The DEA Heroin Enforcement Action Team connected the overdoses to fake oxycodone pills, laced with fentanyl, which were produced and smuggled into the U.S. by Mexican drug cartels, AZCentral.com reported.

“What we have is a rapidly expanding opioid drug addiction in the country, and we have Mexican drug cartels to push dangerous drugs on streets,” Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA in Arizona, stated. “They think they’re taking oxycodone, but they’re taking fentanyl, and it’s lights out.”

Dr. Jeffrey Johnston, chief medical examiner in Maricopa County, and Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA in Arizona, talk about the 32 fentanyl-related overdoses in the Valley that occurred over the past 18 months, on March 21, 2017.
(Photo: Garrett Mitchell/The Republic)

Doug Coleman, the special agent in charge of the DEA in Arizona, stated. “They think they’re taking oxycodone, but they’re taking fentanyl, and it’s lights out.”

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office found that in addition to fentanyl, almost 75% of the overdoses contained dipyrone, which is a painkiller that has been banned since 1977.

The 32 victims who died were between 16- and 64-years-old, with the average age being 35.

It is not clear how many fentanyl-linked deaths transpired throughout Arizona. Over 2,000 fentanyl-related overdoses were recorded across the country in 2015.

In August 2016, there were 14 cases of fatal overdose in California caused by counterfeit prescription pills laced with the deadly drug.

Coleman said the addiction usually begins when someone is prescribed a certain amount of painkillers by a doctor that is abused, leading addicts to resort to heroin sold on the streets.

“It affects all classes, all age groups,” Coleman added.

Dr. Jeffrey Johnston, the chief Maricopa County medical examiner, talks March 21, 2017, about the 32 fentanyl-related overdoses in the Valley that occurred over the past 18 months. (Photo: Garrett Mitchell/The Republic)

Coleman said the DEA is aware of the drugs entering through the Arizona-Mexico border, but originally thought they were being moved elsewhere. Currently, thousands of drugs being sold for $15 to $20 per pill remain on the streets in Phoenix with no way for addicts to tell if it is real oxycodone.

The purposely mislabeled drug takes much less to kill someone compared to oxycodone; it causes people to become lethargic, have slurred speech, and can cause a comatose state before death, according to Jeffrey Johnston, the chief Maricopa County medical examiner.

“In these types of deaths, what we see is they are faster,” Johnston continued.

The number of fatal overdoses is likely to increase because toxicology reports for subsequent deaths are still pending. Four related deaths were listed to have occurred in February.

Get the latest news from the world of crime