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drugs

Japhia Richards (PCSO photo)

A Maricopa man’s probation officer turned him in for allegedly possessing a myriad of illegal drugs in his bedroom.

Japhia Richards, 33, was arrested July 21 from a home in Senita after officers reportedly found drug paraphernalia, heroin, marijuana, cocaine and prescription pills in his room, according to a Maricopa Police Department report.

The incident began when Richards allegedly admitted to his probation officer that he was in possession of syringes, spoons, cigarette wrappers and pipes that he said he used to smoke heroin.

Richards reportedly consented to a room search where the officer found the drugs, including five prescription pill bottles “with the names to the prescription ripped off.”

The police report stated Richards was unable to provide proof of being prescribed those pills.

MPD arrived to assist the probation officer who had detained Richards after the search.

A warrants check found Richards had a felony warrant out of Gilbert’s Highland Justice Court for two counts of aggravated DUI.

Richards was arrested on the felony warrant, two counts of possession of narcotic drugs (class 4 felonies), possession of dangerous drugs (class 4 felony), four counts of possession of prescription only drugs (class 1 misdemeanors), possession of marijuana (class 6 felony), and seven counts of possession of drug paraphernalia (class 6 felonies).

He’s being held in the Pinal County Jail on a $2,700 secured bond.

Tanner Rogers. (PCSO photo)

Tanner Rogers, 31, was arrested July 9 within the Maricopa High School drug-free school zone area.

Initially cited for a traffic violation, he was soon accused of possession of dangerous drugs among other drug-related crimes. Rogers was observed to be riding a bicycle, heading north of Taft Avenue. He was detained by officers after allegedly failing to stop at a stop sign posted on McDavid Road.

According to the police report, during the traffic stop, police observed signs of Rogers being under the influence of stimulants. This observation allegedly led Rogers to confess his possession of marijuana without a medical card. Rogers reportedly handed the officer a small container of the drug.

After the alleged admission, police informed Rogers they would conduct a search of his person, allegedly prompting Rogers to admit to possessing “an ounce of meth” in his pocket. Rogers was arrested and officers allegedly recovered additional marijuana and 18.5 grams of methamphetamine, according to a reported field test.

The total amount of marijuana alleged to be found weighed approximately 11.2 grams. According to reports, police also recovered a digital scale and $263 in cash from Rogers’ pockets. Rogers allegedly admitted to purchasing the methamphetamine to trade the drug for tools in place of another person he knew.

Rogers was booked on possession of dangerous drugs for sale in a drug-free school zone, possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession/use of marijuana, possession/use of drug paraphernalia.

His bond has been set at $5,000. His next hearing is July 17.

Shawn Hill (PCSO photo)

 

A traffic stop led to a drug arrest early this month for a man with a misdemeanor warrant.

Maricopa Police Department arrested Shawn Hill on drug charges March 1 at 1:25 a.m. at the Ancon Avenue and Edison Road intersection in Acacia Crossings neighborhood.

A warrant check from his Indiana driver license confirmed Hill had a misdemeanor warrant out of the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court. The report did not specify what the warrant was for.

Prior to the arrest, an officer reported Hill stated he was in possession of drugs and a pipe.

“He stated he had the drugs in his underwear,” the police report alleges.

Of the items allegedly removed from the area, included: a clear glass pipe with white and brown residue, a small clear baggie containing meth, additional small clear baggies, a pink bag containing a lighter, a multicolor glass pipe and a small jar of marijuana, according to the report.

The officer also reported finding a weigh scale inside the vehicle “next to the seat where Hill was sitting.”

The scale purportedly had a white, powdery substance on it.

MPD transported Hill to Pinal County Jail and forwarded charges of possession of a dangerous drug, a class 4 felony, possession of drug paraphernalia, a class 6 felony, and possession of marijuana, class 6 felony.


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Priscilla Behnke. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Priscilla Behnke

With the Tide Pod challenge slowly losing steam, it’s important to remember the No. 1 ingested poison by teens in Maricopa is alcohol.

According to the latest Arizona Youth Survey (2016), roughly 860 teens consumed alcohol last month. It is more students than are enrolled at Maricopa Elementary School. The survey also told us of those who drank, 68 binge-drank (five or more drinks in one setting); 300 got their alcohol at a party and 200 directly by their parents. Thirty-five reported driving while drunk. And 138 reported riding in a car with a drunk driver.

We do not know if it is a friend or parent who was drunk while driving. We do know they thought a drunk driver was an acceptable mode of transportation.

Alcohol abuse by teens is not a right of passage. It is a risk with possible lifelong consequences. Seventy-five percent of alcoholics began drinking before age 15. The AYS showed 14 was the average age of first use by Maricopa teens. Even scarier is aggregated data show eighth graders are starting at 11.

If alcohol prevention isn’t taken seriously by those guiding this generation, they won’t be burning their mouths on Tide Pods; they will be sinking their potential down a glass of vodka or becoming another statistic on the 347.

Parents should not be passive bystanders as children aimlessly wander through adolescence. It is a common misconception that underage drinking is OK if done with the parent. Research shows that kids who drink with their parents will drink without their parents. But teens whose parents talk with them about their disapproval of underage drinking are less likely to drink.

Here are some tips to help you lead the fight for prevention in your home:

  1. Know the facts and share them with your child. Misinformation is bombarding your child daily. Share early and share often.
  2. Set firm rules around drugs and alcohol in the home, let them know you expect them to abstain and, if they don’t, what the consequences will be. Then follow through.
  3. Monitor your alcohol and lock it up if you have too.

If you’re wondering if your teen is already using, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Changes in style of clothing, hair or music.
  • Hanging out with a bad crowd or new friends you don’t know.
  • Isolating from the family.
  • Changes in attitude or sudden burst of anger.
  • Paranoia – acting like everyone is out to get them.

If you and your family need assistance finding help with alcohol and drug treatment, contact the Be Awesome Youth Coalition at 520-428-7750.

Priscilla Behnke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.


This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Nicholas Amado (PCSO photo)

Maricopa Police arrested an alleged convicted felon Friday after they say a search of his vehicle yielded drugs and weapons.

Nicholas Amado, 38, of Casa Grande was arrested on multiple dangerous drug charges just after midnight on Feb. 9 at the Circle K convenience store on John Wayne Parkway and Bowlin Road after a call alerted authorities to an unconscious driver parked at a gas pump.

According to a Maricopa Police Department report, an officer found Amado “slumped over the center console” inside a blue 2002 Chevy Tahoe.

Amado stirred at the sound of the officer’s fist pounding on the driver’s side window and eventually opened the vehicle door. The officer reported smelling the “strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.”

The report states Amado denied having weapons in the vehicle and also said he was not in possession of a medical marijuana card.

As Amado exited the vehicle at the officer’s request, the report states two $20 bills were on the driver side floorboard. The officer offered to let Amado collect the cash before it blew away.

According to the report, the officer observed Amado “rummaging under the driver seat and pull(ing) out a large wad of money” before the officer walked him over to a police vehicle.

After the officer told Amado he would search the vehicle due to the marijuana odor, the report states Amado allegedly admitted to having marijuana in the ashtray of the SUV.

The officer’s search of the vehicle alleges the discovery of that and more, including:

  • One “tennis ball-sized” bag of methamphetamine, weighing 18.3 grams in the driver seat
  • One bag of methamphetamine, weighing 18.2 grams under the driver seat
  • One bag of marijuana, weighing 1.4 grams in the dashboard ashtray
  • One bag of marijuana, weighing 0.9 grams in a backpack behind the driver seat
  • One clear plastic bag of crushed/powdered methamphetamine in the same backpack

All of the drugs later field tested positive on the TruNarc scanner, the report alleges.

The officer reported Amado is a “convicted felon who was in possession of two firearms.”

Inside the vehicle, the officer reportedly found two weapons, an H&K .22 caliber MP5 rifle and a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, both with accompanying ammunition.

A pill bottle containing eight oxycodone hydrochloride opioid pills and a black digital scale were also allegedly found in the vehicle.

“I located binoculars, off-road equipment and a medical first aid kit,” the officer wrote in the report.

After the search, the officer states he told Amado he was under arrest, walked over to Amado and “grabbed his left and arm and told him to place his hands behind his back.”

The report alleges Amado instead pulled away from the officer and ran through the parking lot.

A second police officer assisted in successfully placing Amado in custody, but the report states the suspect continued to resist while officers attempted to handcuff him.  

Police transported Amado to Pinal County Jail on one count of resisting arrest, a class 6 felony; one count of possession of dangerous drugs, a class 4 felony; one count of possession of dangerous drugs for sale, a class 2 felony; one count of transport dangerous drugs for sale, a class 2 felony; one count of possession of marijuana, a class 6 felony; and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, a class 6 felony. He is also charged with misconduct involving weapons, a class 1 misdemeanor; prohibited possessor in possession of firearms, a class 4 felony; possession of weapons in commission of drug offense, a class 4 felony; and possession of prescription medication without prescription, a class 1 misdemeanor.



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Steven Billington (left) and Steve Hamby are accused of having a pound of meth. PCSO photos

Maricopa police arrested two men on multiple drug charges last week after allegedly discovering almost a pound of methamphetamine and syringes which also contained traces of the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

Steven Billington, 42, and Steve Hamby, 30, were taken into custody around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 19, after MPD allegedly found multiple plastic baggies containing around 28 grams of meth along with a scale, aluminum foil and two hypodermic needles.

The drugs were tested using a laser drug testing kit called Trunarc, which confirmed the substance to be meth, the report says. The Trunarc device was also used to test one of the syringes that contained a brown liquid that tested positive for both meth and fentanyl.

Fentanyl and other more powerful synthetic painkillers have been linked to many of the overdose deaths associated with the opioid epidemic. Typically mixed with heroin, the drug is also being mixed with other drugs like stimulants such as meth and cocaine.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Since the recent uptick in opioid and opiate use, the Trunarc device has proven to be a valuable tool to law enforcement and public health officials when determining if powerful synthetic analgesic like fentanyl, carfentanil and their variants have entered a community.

The two men were initially stopped by MPD for allegedly driving a car displaying license plates which were suspended. The driver – Billington – was cited for also not having a valid driver’s license. During a “tow inventory,” the drugs and paraphernalia were found, the report says.

Billington was charged with transporting meth for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, which combined carry a presumptive punishment of six years in prison.

Hamby was charged with possession of a dangerous drug, possession of a dangerous drug with intent to sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, which combined carry a presumptive punishment of eight and a half years in prison.

Both Billington and Hamby were booked into Pinal County Jail.


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Priscilla Behnke. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Priscilla Behnke

  1. It’s the most popular drug. With all the talk about the latest epidemic, opioid abuse, it is important to remember that alcohol is still the most commonly used substance by teens. This holds true for our local youth. For the last 12 years all data points to alcohol being the default substance used by Maricopa teens.
  2. The line, “Everybody’s doing it” is a lie. It’s counter intuitive when there is an endless supply of movies ready to be streamed straight to your phone depicting teens and raging alcohol thirsty partiers, but they aren’t. In fact, while it’s the most popular drug of choice, more kids chose not to drink. According to the latest Arizona Youth Survey data, only 17.5 percent of local teens report using alcohol in the 30 days. This same survey has shown, cycle after cycle, teens who use alcohol are in the minority.
  3. Local teens are on the friends-and-family plan. The 17.5 percent of adolescent drinkers accessed their alcohol from somewhere or someone. According to local surveys conducted by the Be Awesome Youth Coalition, our teens are on the friends and family plan. The top two ways youth accessed alcohol were:
  • Party with friends (without adults present)
  • At home from parents or guardians

We need to be vigilant about where are kids are going. We shouldn’t just worry about parties; whom our children are hanging out with is also important. Get to know the parents of our children’s friends. Ensure they are not hanging out at homes where adults are sharing alcohol with minors.

  1. All brains are not equal. There are several reasons we should take underage drinking seriously. Brain development is ongoing for what experts believe to be into the early to mid-20s. In the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a study completed in 2010 by neuroscientist Susan Tapert found that teens who abused alcohol do worse on thinking and memory tests than their non-drinking peers. I meet parents all the time who take pride in their child’s education. If their child is drinking, they are putting said education at risk.
  2. You have the greatest influence. You as a parent have a great impact over your child’s decisions. If you talk with your kids about alcohol, they will listen. Parents who do not engage in discussions about alcohol use risk leaving a vacuum on the issue open for anyone to fill. Your role as a parent is key in helping to reduce underage drinking. For more information follow us on Facebook at The Be Awesome Youth Coalition page or visit our website mcasa.org.

Priscilla Behnke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.

Facebook.com/BeAwesomeYouthCoalition, PBehnke@macaasa.org 


This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

 

This is the final story of a four-part series on the crisis, care and prevention of opioid abuse, which was recently named an epidemic by the governor's office.

 

Opioid addicts seeking rehabilitation have numerous options for treatment.

Twelve-step programs are the largest common denominator of long-term recovery programs.

The support network Advocates for Opioid Recovery strongly suggest medical detoxification which uses a combination of “behavioral interventions and medications” to treat opioid abuse. The organization claims 66 percent of addicts who use medication detoxification reach sobriety after six months, versus only 31 percent who use no medication.

Once detoxed, medications like short-term Subutex (buprenorphine) and long-term Vivitrol (naltrexone) are often effective treatments for opioid cessation. These drugs work by binding to the same neurological receptors as opioids negating the desire to use. Whereas “antagonist” drugs like naloxone, on the other hand, actually reverse the effects of opioids.

A drug known as Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone and is often used with addicts going through immediate detox.

Methadone can also significantly help with the detoxification process. However, in recent years many authorities including the CDC, have begun to urge against its prolong use as it has been reported that users have developed dependencies on the drug.

Cognitive therapy is also used to treat addiction of all types, focusing on addressing the underlying causes of substance abuse through counseling, group therapy and other cognitive exercises.

Twelve-step programs are the largest common denominator of long-term recovery programs. When used in conjunction with Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and counseling 12-step programs have proven to be quite successful.

Rehabilitation & Recovery Resources

Inpatient – Adult
Valley of Hope (Chandler)
Located in Chandler, Valley of Hope’s 55-bed addiction treatment facility “provides a variety of addiction treatment (drug rehab) options to adults ages 18+ including medically monitored detoxification, residential and partial/day levels of care. We also offer free professional consultations and would be happy to arrange a tour of our facility.”
www.valleyhope.org
480-899-3335
501 N. Washington St.
Chandler, AZ 85225

Inpatient – Youth
The Pathway Program (Tempe)
Offering support groups and both inpatient and residential treatment for young people ages 13-25, the Pathway Program provides “fun and positive social interactions,” so that young people have the ability to realize “that a sober lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up on having fun.”
www.thepathwayprogram.com
877-921-4050
4820 S Mill Ave., Suite 101
Tempe, AZ 85282

Outpatient, Support & Recovery – Adult & Youth
Maricopa Behavioral Health Services, LLC (Maricopa)
Maricopa Behavioral Health Services offer outpatient treatment for those with substance abuse and behavioral or mental health on an income-based “Sliding Fee Scale.” They offer evaluation and screening Services, referrals to inpatient treatment, outpatient recovery and relapse prevention, counseling and therapy in the city of Maricopa.
www.maricopahelpingeachother.com
480-524-2699
19395 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 16 (upstairs)
Maricopa, AZ 85139

Sun Life Family Health Center (Maricopa)
Accepting Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance Sun Life Health Center offers outpatient behavioral and mental health services including counseling and therapy, assessment evaluation and screening services and inpatient referral for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
www.slfhc.org
520-568-2245
44765 W. Hathaway Road
Maricopa, AZ 85139

Community Bridges, Inc. (Casa Grande)
Offering substance abuse outpatients services, Community Bridges provides “a continuum of care that begins with prevention and continues for individuals and families through treatment and recovery.”
www.communitybridgesaz.org
520-426-0086
675 E. Cottonwood Lane, Suite 1
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Arizona Treatment Institute, LLC (Casa Grande)
Arizona Treatment Institute Offers outpatient detoxification and substance abuse treatment programs including medication assisted treatment using naloxone for opioid dependency. They accept military insurance (TRICARE or CHAMPVA) as Well as Access to Recovery (ATR) vouchers.
www.arizonatreatmentinstitute.com
520-836-9788
1927 N. Trekell Road
Casa Grande, AZ 85222

Horizon Health and Wellness
Horizon Health and Wellness offers outpatient treatment for substance abuse, mental health and crisis intervention. They offer assessment, evaluation and screening services and inpatient referrals, as well as outpatient partial hospitalization services.
www.hhwaz.org
520-836-1688
120 W. Main St.
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

PSA Art Awakenings (Casa Grande)
Art Awakenings provides rehabilitation through “expressive arts programs using the healing power of creativity to explore feelings and process issues.” Adult programs are “primarily psychosocial rehabilitation with individual, peer support, group and family supportive counseling along with case management.” Whereas programs for children are focused on “therapeutic expressive arts.”
http://www.artawakenings.org/
520-423-0707
309 W. 2nd St.
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

 

Additional Information & Hotlines

Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family
www.goyff.az.org

Arizona Treatment Locator
www.substanceabuse.az.gov

Crisis Response Network www.crisisnetwork.org
(602) 427-4600

Teen Lifeline
(602)248 -8336
Text “Listen” to 741-741


Part 1: How the addiction starts

Part 2: Stronger and deadlier than ever

Part 3: Naloxone often the last line of defense

This is the third story of a four-part series on the crisis, care and prevention of opioid abuse, which was recently named an epidemic by the governor's office.

Naloxone is sold over the counter to combat the effects of an opioid overdose.

One of the best options for saving an opioid overdose patient is to use an opiate antagonist like naloxone.  

Pharmacies in the Maricopa area are confirmed to carry one or more forms of naloxone.

Arizona Department of Health Services’ Real Time Opioid Data tracker estimates as of Aug. 24, there have been 1,961 suspected opioid overdoses, 1,339 doses of naloxone administered to those overdose patients, and an estimated 1,050 of those patients being successfully revived by the antagonist.

It’s important to note these are conservative estimates. Sometimes when users encounter the stronger forms of opiates such as heroin laced with fentanyl and carfentanil, multiple doses of naloxone are needed to revive the individual.

As of June 9, Arizona has joined more than 25 other states in creating a standing order” for naloxone, making it available without prescription over the counter at most pharmacies.

Anyone near someone who may heavily use opioids or opiates, prescription or otherwise, are recommended to obtain some form of naloxone to use in the event of an overdose.

Though in limited supply, pharmacies typically offer naloxone in two forms.

The most common form is a nasal spray called Narcan, which typically comes in a two-dose package and costs around $140 without insurance.

The next most common is a generic naloxone injection typically sold in 1-milileter, single-dose vials at around $25 a piece without insurance, or in a two-dose kit for around $50.

Another, less common, form of naloxone is being manufactured in the form if an auto-injector similar to an EpiPen, called Evizo. Costs of the auto-injector can be $500 or more.

 

Pharmacies in the Maricopa area are confirmed to carry one or more forms of naloxone. Most, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Bashas’ pharmacies, carry at least the Narcan nasal spray. Though not regularly stocked with naloxone injections, most are willing to order them.

For those with insurance, naloxone can be significantly cheaper. For those without insurance coupons are available and organizations such as Sonoran Prevention Works will deliver free naloxone and offer instruction on how to administer it.


 

Part 1: How the addiction begins

Part 2: Stronger and deadlier than ever

Part 4: Recovery & Rehabilitation

This is the second story of a four-part series on the crisis, care and prevention of opioid abuse, which was recently named an epidemic by the governor's office.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Most people are familiar with the lesser forms of opioid pain killers such as Percocet (oxycodone) or Vicodin (hydrocodone), and the even stronger forms such as Oxycontin, morphine and its derivatives.  And most people are also familiar with the more common black tar heroin.”

 However, the recent spike in overdose numbers has been partly attributed to the sudden availability of lesser known though incredibly potent, synthetic opiates such as fentanyl and its exponentially stronger cousin carfentanil.

Carfentanil and its synthetic relatives are so powerful they have even been weaponized.

To put their strengths into perspective, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency warns that by weight heroin is about 5 times stronger than hydrocodone, fentanyl is about 50 times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is about 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

As another measurement, think about it like this. One milligram of carfentanil packs the strength of nearly 5 kilograms of heroin.

According to the DEA 2 milligrams of Fentanyl can be lethal, which means a dose of carfentanil not much bigger than a few grains of salt can prove deadly. 

CBS News reported in August of 2017 that 18 members of a SWAT team in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania were hospitalized after conducting a drug raid during which they inhaled an unknown airborne chemical substance” the U.S. Attorney’s office now believes to have been fentanyl.

Fentanyl and carfentanil are rarely marketed on the streets as themselves.

According to the DEA, they are often mixed or cut” with heroin, typically in powder form, or other cutting agents to increase its potency or imitate heroin all together.

These drugs are also found in forms other than powders or pills. Lozenges, suckers and patches similar to a nicotine patch are also pharmaceutically manufactured. Though less common on the streets, these forms have been known to be illegally diverted” from the pharmaceutical industry.

Carfentanil and its synthetic relatives are so powerful they have even been weaponized. In October of 2002, Russian military used an aerosol chemical agent, now proven to have contained carfentanil, against 40 or so Chechen terrorist who had taken more than 800 theater-goers hostage at a Moscow theater.

In a 2012 article published in the Oxford Journal of Analytical Toxicology, researchers claim to have found traces of the drug and its derivatives on the clothes and in urine samples of the hostages.

The article alleges 125 of the 129 hostages who died in the standoff perished as a result of the chemical agent.


Part 1: How the addiction starts

Part 3: Naloxone often last line of defense

Part 4: Recovery & Rehabilitation

As much of the United States has begun to face down the staggering number of opioid-related deaths in recent years, Arizona too has begun to confront the harsh reality of what Gov. Doug Ducey declared in June to be a “statewide emergency.”

After as little as one week of consistent use, the body can develop a physical dependency on opioids.

The reality Ducey is confronting with his declaration is one where, according to the Center for Disease Control, 91 Americans are dying every day from an opioid-related overdose, two of which are Arizonans.

A recently completed study by the Arizona Department of Health Services shows the city of Maricopa and its surrounding area has managed to largely avoid this deadly affliction, seeing between 8-12 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2016.

For comparison, the report says, that same year the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community saw between 37-60 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people.

We are fortunately behind the curve, and we want to stay behind the curve,” Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said Aug. 10 at an MPD presentation on opioid abuse.

To remain in this lightly affected position, Stahl said it’s important for the community to understand the roots of this “epidemic” to better identify and prevent opioid abuse. 

According to the AZDHS report, the number of opioid-related deaths in Arizona have increased by almost 75 percent in the last five years. Two major factors have been identified by the AZDHS as the likely causes for the increased number of overdoses.

The first factor they consider is the dramatically disproportionate consumption of prescription painkillers (analgesics) seen in the United States compared to the rest of the world.

According to AZDHS, the United States makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes “80 percent of the global opioid supply.”

 

Prescription pills: The gateway

oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, loarazepam, clonazepam

The Center for Disease Control estimates as much as 80 percent of heroin users start on prescription pain killers, which some think may be too loosely prescribed.

Often, people are given 30-day prescriptions of opioid painkillers like Percocet (oxycodone) or Vicodin (hydrocodone) for routine procedures such as having wisdom teeth removed, or for minor sports injuries. This excessive dosing can prove to be problematic.

After as little as one week of consistent use, the body can develop a physical dependency on opioids, according to CDC. Patients using opioids only a week are 14 percent more likely to be using the drug a year later. Patients using opioids for only a month are 30 percent more likely to be using opioids a year later.

Additionally, with prolonged use, the pain-killing effect of opioids is often lessened, causing the user to seek higher doses and/or stronger forms of the drug.

When users are no longer physically satisfied with their prescribed dose, or they suddenly find themselves unable to afford the sometimes-costly prescription drugs, they turn to the streets for the stronger and often cheaper heroin and its derivatives.

One of the easiest and most impactful solutions lawmakers are suggesting is to limit the amount of pain medication patients are initially prescribed.

Many states, including Arizona, have already begun limiting state employee insurance and Medicaid recipients to a seven-day initial supply of any narcotic pain killer, excluding patients with chronic pain or traumatic injury.”

In 2016 Gov. Ducey signed the order he hopes private insurance companies will also get behind. 

AZDHS further recommends patients take charge of their treatment when prescribed pain medications by discussing non-narcotic options and/or creating a path for exiting the pain management plan.

Unfortunately, it’s not solely access to prescription opioids that has caused the spike in opioid related deaths.

CDC also warns of combining opioids with benzodiazepines (BZDS) such as Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (loarazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam). BZDS are estimated to play a role in 31 percent of opioid-related overdoes.

For those using stronger forms of opioids, the increased availability of extremely powerful synthetic opiates is the second factor the AZDHS has identified as a cause to the increased number of overdose deaths.

Part 2: Stronger and deadlier than ever

Part 3: Naloxone often last line of defense

Part 4: Recovery & Rehabilitation

Ted Huntington presents information on opioid abuse in Arizona. Photo by Mason Callejas

Eighty percent of heroin users start with addictions to prescription medication.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa Police Department, in cooperation with the Be Awesome Youth Coalition, hosted a presentation Thursday about the effects of the “opioid epidemic” in Arizona, and across the country.

Ted Huntington with the ICAN Arizona organization led the presentation, which focused on identifying opioid addiction and mitigating the role of prescription pain medication in perpetuating what Gov. Doug Ducey has labeled a “crisis.”

MPD Chief Stahl said so far, the epidemic has yet to impact Maricopa the way it has in other parts of the state. With the help of presentations like Thursday’s, he wants to keep it that way.

“We’re fortunately behind the curve,” Stahl said at the presentation. “And we want to stay behind the curve.”

In 2017, between June. 1 and Aug. 8, Arizona saw 206 suspected opioid related deaths, 1,417 suspected opioid related overdoses, 105 babies born exposed to opioids, 1,071 doses of the opioid antagonist Naloxone (Narcan) administered and 1,045 overdose victims were revived.

John Koch, a reformed addict turned advocate who spoke at the presentation, said the actual numbers are much higher.

Koch works with several organizations which help distribute Naloxone. The data they keep, he said, shows a need for greater access to the lifesaving drug.

Currently, he said, pharmacies have a “standing order” for Naloxone which can now be purchased over the counter. For those who don’t have insurance and cannot afford the $30-$65 cost, he said, an organization he works with called Sonoran Prevention Works will deliver Naloxone, and teach how to properly administer the drug, free of charge.

The traffic stop on John Wayne Parkway drew a crowd but resulted in a standard drug arrest. Photo by Michelle Sorensen

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa police arrested a woman on State Route 347 on charges of possession of methamphetamine and marijuana after a traffic stop on June 21.

Police pulled over a black Dodge Dart on SR 347 south of Honeycutt Avenue around 4:39 p.m., according to a Maricopa Police Department report. The officer didn’t say in the report why the Dart was pulled over, MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said.

Four people were in the Dart at the time. The front seat passenger in the car, Veronica Santana, 46, was found to be in possession of methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to the report.

A Border Patrol unit arrived at the scene because Maricopa police needed a K9 unit for a “sniff search,” Alvarado said, and Border Patrol had the closest canine.

Santana was charged with possession of marijuana, a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia, the report read.

Santana also had a felony warrant for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia from Pinal County Superior Court with a $500 bond, according to the report.

Police booked Santana into Pinal County Jail.

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa police arrested a man after finding marijuana and methamphetamine in the trunk of his car during a traffic stop in the early morning hours of June 27.

A Maricopa Police Department officer pulled over the car belonging to Emmanuel Hernandez near Smith-Enke Road and North Vintage Drive around 1 a.m. for making a wide right turn, according to a police report. After approaching the car, the officer noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the car, according to the report.

Hernandez, 19, told the officer that his friends had been smoking marijuana in the car earlier, the report read.

After the officer asked Hernandez to step out of the vehicle, however, Hernandez said “he wanted to be honest” and told the officer he had marijuana and methamphetamine in the trunk, according to the report.

Hernandez told the officer he could open the trunk, the report read, and the officer allegedly found four baggies of methamphetamine and one baggie of marijuana. Hernandez then told the officer he had another small baggie of methamphetamine in his sock, according to the report.

The methamphetamine weighed in at 6.7 grams and the marijuana weighed 27.3 grams.

Hernandez also allegedly told the officer that he was on probation. Police charged Hernandez with possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a dangerous drug.

Convicted of conspiracy to transport or sell marijuana, Uriel Ruiz-Estrada (right) was sentenced this week to a year in prison. Martin Aispuro-Angulo was sentenced in May in the same case. PCSO photos

Monday, a Pinal County Superior Court judge sentenced 18-year-old Mexican national Uriel Ruiz-Estrada to one year in the Department of Corrections for helping aid drug smugglers through the Pinal mountain ranges.

On March 2, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office’s Anti-Smuggling Unit received a tip of possible scouts in a mountainous area southwest of Maricopa.

With the help of their air unit, PCSO located a makeshift campsite and three drug scouts acting as lookouts. These lookouts warn the drug runners of law enforcement presence and other concerns which hinder their criminal syndicate’s ability to ensure their drugs pass safely through their assigned areas.

One scout fled as PCSO moved in, but deputies still arrested two of the men, including Ruiz-Estrada and 47-year-old Martin Aispuro-Angulo.

The men plead guilty to one felony count each of conspiracy to transport and/or sell marijuana.

In May, a Pinal County Superior Court Judge sentenced the co-defendant, Aispuro-Angulo, to one year in the Department of Corrections.