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Local News

Arizona’s Staggering Opioid Overdose Numbers Highlight a Worsening Health Crisis for the State


Anzhe Zhang 

According to the latest available data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Arizona reported some of the highest number of opioid deaths in the Southwest region, on top of having disproportionately younger users compared to nearby states.

It highlights one of the most pressing issues for Arizonans as the state is witnessing a new wave of deaths stemming largely from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is particularly dangerous due to its potency and cheap availability.

In 2019, Arizona saw 1,290 opioid overdoses, making up 68 percent of the 1,907 overall drug-related overdoses that year.

Among those opioid overdoses, 920 were male while 370 were female. Other demographic data for the state highlight that the opioid crisis is disproportionately affecting Non-Hispanic White residents, making up 775 of opioid overdose deaths, though Hispanic residents were the second highest category with 361 deaths. Meanwhile, Non-Hispanic Black residents suffered 78 opioid overdose deaths that year, while the remaining demographic category saw 59 deaths.

Whereas opioid overdoses generally skew older, over 26 percent of residents who suffered overdoses in Arizona fell in the 25 to 34 year-old range.

Adjusted for age, it’s estimated that for every 100,000 Arizonans, 18.4 of them will suffer from opioid-related deaths.

Compared with neighboring states like Nevada, which saw 373 opioid overdose deaths, and New Mexico, which saw 394 deaths, Arizona is facing a crisis that is seeing nearly four to five times as many deaths as some other states within the region.

The category of opioids causing the most overdose deaths in the state are synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which caused 796 deaths in 2019. Natural and semisynthetic opioids like oxycodone caused 308 deaths, while heroin caused 271 deaths. Fentanyl has been particularly dangerous because it’s hard to trace and gets mixed unknowingly into other drugs, like cocaine.

The CDC reports that just in 2019 alone, 36,000 people nationwide died from synthetic opioid-related deaths, marking a 11-time increase from 2013.