This Arizona City Has Been Named the Drug Overdoses Capital of the State

Phoenix, the capital and largest city of Arizona, has been struggling with a severe drug overdose problem, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people and affected the health and well-being of many more. The city has been named the drug overdoses capital of the state, due to its high rate of drug-related deaths, which are largely driven by opioids, especially fentanyl.

The Rise of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, to increase their effects or to stretch the supply. However, this also increases the risk of overdose, as users may not know the exact amount or purity of the substance they are consuming.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Phoenix, the number of fentanyl pills seized in Arizona has soared in recent years, doubling from 6 million in 2020 to almost 12 million last year. Most of these pills are smuggled from Mexico, where they are produced in clandestine labs with cheap and easy-to-obtain chemicals.

Fentanyl is also available in other forms, such as powder, patches, or liquid. It can be injected, snorted, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Even a small dose can be fatal, as it can slow down or stop the breathing and heart rate of the user.

The Impact of the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the drug overdose crisis in Phoenix and across the country. The social isolation, economic hardship, and mental stress caused by the pandemic have increased the demand for drugs, while also reducing the access to treatment and recovery services.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were 2,006 opioid confirmed fatalities in the state last year, an 80% rise compared with 2018. Of the deaths in 2020, 94% involved synthetics like fentanyl, up from 69% in 2018. In Phoenix, the paramedics and police have responded to between 700 and 800 suspected overdoses every month so far this year, administering naloxone, an emergency antidote, in 80% of callouts.

The pandemic has also increased the risk of overdose among people who use drugs alone, without anyone nearby to help them in case of an emergency. This is especially true for people who are homeless or living in unstable housing, who may not have access to safe injection sites, syringe exchange programs, or other harm reduction services.

The Role of Excessive Heat

Another factor that contributes to the drug overdose problem in Phoenix is the extreme heat that the city experiences during the summer months. The average high temperature in Phoenix in July is 106°F (41°C), and the city often records days above 110°F (43°C) or even 120°F (49°C).

The excessive heat can have a negative impact on the health of people who use drugs, as it can dehydrate them, increase their blood pressure, and affect their metabolism. It can also alter the potency and shelf life of the drugs, making them more dangerous or unpredictable.

The heat is especially harmful for people who are unsheltered or homeless, who may not have access to shade, water, or cooling centers. They may also be more exposed to the sun, which can cause sunburns, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. These conditions can worsen the effects of the drugs and increase the likelihood of overdose.

The Need for Action

The drug overdose crisis in Phoenix is a complex and multifaceted issue, which requires a comprehensive and coordinated response from various stakeholders, including the government, the health care system, the law enforcement, the community organizations, and the people who use drugs themselves.

Some of the possible actions that could help address the problem are:

Increasing the availability and accessibility of naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, and training more people on how to use it.

Expanding the treatment and recovery options for people who have substance use disorders, and reducing the stigma and barriers that prevent them from seeking help.

Enhancing the harm reduction services and programs that provide safe and supportive environments for people who use drugs, and educating them on how to reduce the risks and prevent overdoses.

Strengthening the surveillance and monitoring of the drug supply and the drug trends, and alerting the public and the providers about any changes or dangers.

Collaborating with the neighboring states and countries to disrupt the trafficking and production of fentanyl and other illicit drugs, and enforcing the laws and regulations that protect the public health and safety.


Phoenix is facing a serious and urgent challenge, as it has been named the drug overdoses capital of the state. The city is witnessing a surge in drug-related deaths, mainly due to the rise of fentanyl, a powerful and deadly synthetic opioid. The Covid-19 pandemic and the excessive heat have also worsened the situation, by increasing the demand for drugs and the risk of overdose. The city needs to act swiftly and effectively, by implementing a range of strategies that can prevent, treat, and reverse the overdoses, and save the lives of its residents.

Leave a Comment