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CDC: Fentanyl Deaths Rise In Arizona, Nationally

Deaths from synthetic opioids rose more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2016 in Arizona.

Nationally that number doubled, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts attribute the sharp increase to the spread of the highly potent opioid fentanyl into the supply of heroin and other street drugs.

In June, Arizona began monitoring opioid deaths in real-time. Those findings suggest fentanyl is not playing as big a role in Arizona as compared to New England or the Midwest.

Less than 5 percent of the verified deaths in the second half of 2017 involved fentanyl, according to data collected by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

“We do appear to be holding back some of that tidal wave when you compare us to other states,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said

More than 1,000 people are suspected of dying from opioids in the past nine months in Arizona. The department still has to go back and verify the cause of some of those deaths.

“It will likely not be as high as what is being reported in real time, but our community still has to respond as though all of these are confirmed because that’s what they are experiencing in the field,” Christ said.

If those numbers aren’t significantly revised, Arizona would be on track to have more deaths in 2017 than the year before.

Earlier this year, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a package of new laws and regulations aimed at curbing the state’s opioid epidemic. Those rules don’t go into effect until the end of April.


Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.