Residents of Arizona are currently dealing with two pandemics. The first being COVID-19, a global crisis affecting the entire planet. The second is Arizona’s ever-worsening opioid crisis that affects the entire American Southwest. The state has a 372.4-mile stretch which borders Mexico and because of that, Arizona endures a constant influx of drugs from Mexican cartels, which supply the overwhelming majority of the drugs used by Americans. In 2007, cartels supplied 90% of the USA’s cocaine and years ago they branched out into meth and heroin using their existing trade routes. To get an idea of how much that is, their annual earnings are estimated between $15 and $50 billion annually.
Arizona’s Opioid Crisis
Because the opioid epidemic grew so rapidly, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in June 2017, implementing new regulations for prescribing opioids. In 2018, the Arizona state legislature passed a law taking steps like limiting a new opioid prescription to five days, except under special circumstances and keeping a database tracking opioid prescriptions of doctors and patients. These steps led to an over 40% reduction in prescriptions and a dramatic decrease in prescription overdoses, so much that Governor Ducey halted the state of emergency in 2019, prior to the rise of COVID-19 unfortunately. Ironically, the number of overdoses and deaths caused by naturally-grown opioids like heroin continued to rise. When the state stepped in and placed severe limits on prescription opioids, the cartels simply adjusted their quantities and picked up when users’ prescriptions dried up.
With the prescriptions being drastically cut, those using powerful opioids must go elsewhere, and it frequently means they end up on buying a product which is cut with fentanyl. Fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin, is exponentially more potent than what someone on most prescriptions is used to, driving the overdose statistics skyward even while prescription statistics plummet. From 2013 to 2017 overdose deaths caused by opiates in Arizona climbed over 75%, and in 2018 over 1,100 deaths were from an opiate-caused overdose, a figure of 2-3 per day.
Regardless of where the border and drug interdiction teams set up, the cartels’ presence just shifts elsewhere as there are not enough resources to effectively control the entire border. When border enforcement agents patrol in one area, the cartels move their drugs across at another, with nearly 2,000 miles of border between 3 states, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, there are plenty of places for smugglers to cross.
The influx of drugs which come across are accompanied by the smugglers determined to protect their product which leads to violence when confronted, another tragedy caused by the opioid crisis. Sonora Mexico is the state that borders Arizona and is completely under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in North America and possibly the entire Western Hemisphere. They are responsible for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA and marijuana trafficking, and dug their first tunnel under the border in 1989 which surfaced in a warehouse they controlled in Douglas, AZ.
The Opioid Crisis During COVID-19
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many ports across the world are closed or running under capacity, so the precursor chemicals for fentanyl are in short supply as they come from China by sea. With that supply dwindling, drug prices are much higher than normal. Because Americans are staying home more due to lockdowns, many crimes like drunk driving, shoplifting, assaults and others happen far less frequently, but those lockdowns are increasing the rates of people with substance abuse issues.
For the last 11 months that lockdowns have been in effect, alcohol sales have risen nearly 30% and drug testing facilities reported an increase of illicit drug results by 10%-30% depending on which substance. This is troubling because the correlation between the lockdowns and depression is well-established, and it complicates people’s access to the mental help they need so many more people are turning to self-medicating. According to the NHIS, depression and anxiety rates have quadrupled in just over a year’s time.
The pandemic created the need for new ways to conduct day to day activities, schools are held virtually, many doctors also use phone or video to communicate safely with patients. Just as normal life adapted to the restrictions caused by the virus, cartels are now employing their own scientists to manufacture those critical precursor chemicals in Mexico to decrease their reliance on China and increase their bottom line.
Outpatient Addiction Treatment in Arizona
Suffice to say, experts notice trends emerging caused by the concern regarding the spread of COVID-19, like the number of Americans needing mental help caused by forced lockdowns. The cartels will also continue to increase their production to meet demand creating more border violence, overdoses and worse, more deaths. If you have a loved one with addiction, Continuum Recovery Center offers Outpatient Addiction treatment for those looking to recover from the devastating effects of substance abuse. Each client that enters our facility is given a personalized treatment plan that’s aligned with their work or school schedule. Contact Continuum Recovery Center in Phoenix by calling (855) 574-6260.