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Fentanyl overdoses become leading cause of death among youth in Pima County

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 9:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County is on pace to set a grim record for fatal overdoses for the third consecutive year. But what’s more concerning is the amount of young people losing their lives.

“I’ve given out a couple thousand kits up to this date. I don’t count anymore. I just go and give them. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about trying to save somebody’s life,” said Elisa Diaz.

Diaz saw the overwhelming need for the Tucson community to get their hands on Narcan kits, so she continues to hand them out to those interested.

And now that fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of death among kids and teens 19 and younger in Pima County, these kits are needed now more than ever.

“I can only speculate at this point why we’re seeing this, but fentanyl now is in everything,” said Mayra Jeffery with the Community Mental Health and Addiction Program. “Fentanyl has become the cheapest toxic substance on the street. It is really accessible, it is really easy to smuggle and it also looks familiar and non-threatening.”

Pima County officials believe by the end of this year, more than 500 people will have died from these fentanyl-related deaths.

It’s something Diaz sees regularly, running a Facebook group dedicated to monitoring crime and emergency calls throughout the area.

“Many of us know somebody who is suffering in addiction. Opioid addiction and there’s other people too--the elderly, you know, a lot of people can overmedicate accidentally,” sais Diaz.

But the fix will not be as easy as some think.

KOLD News 13 asked Jeffery what her response is to those who say, “just don’t do drugs.”

“The ‘don’t do drugs’ looks different now. Like I mentioned a pill doesn’t come off the same as some of these other substances that we’ve been seeing on the street. There is kind of that sense of safety. You also don’t know where that pill is coming from, somebody could potentially tell you this came from a pharmacist.”

Because these drugs are cheap and accessible, they’ve appealed to experimenting youth.

And officials continue to push the importance of having Narcan handy, should one find themselves in need of reversing an overdose.

“Even if it’s an addict, you never know which time will be the one that’ll change their life for the better. Nobody deserves to die,” said Diaz.

There are plenty of places across the county that provide free Narcan kits to the public.

Click here for more information.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.