Determining the reason for the opioid crisis in the United States isn’t about rocket science.
It’s considerably easier: demand.
The growing opioid epidemic was among the topics at the Opioid Summit Feb. 14-16 in Tempe.
“Cartels do not manufacture a product we don’t want,” said Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Phoenix Field Division. “We have demanded these products.”
Coleman said it costs $5,000 to make 1 kilogram, or about 2 pounds of fentanyl, which is worth nearly $2 million when sold.
“Fentanyl was created to increase addiction,” he explained. “Of all opioid overdoses, more than half involve fentanyl. That’s unheard of.”
In the last decade, the increase in opioid addiction has been substantial.
“People continually chase that first high and can never get there,” Coleman said. “The number of people dying from heroin has tripled in the last 10 years. We are losing large numbers of future generations due to the epidemic.”
Opioids do not play favorites, crossing all barriers and reaching all communities.
There were about 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016. That’s more American lives than were lost during the entire Vietnam War.
Shana Malone, clinical initiatives project manager for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, mentioned the vulnerability of youth.
“Of those who said they used (opioids) in the last 30 days, 66 percent said they used them to cope with feelings of stress or sadness,” she explained. “These drugs change how youth think and the damage to the brain can be permanent.
“Most youth who try, start by age 13.”
There are about 23 million people with opioid dependent syndrome in the United States, which is driving demand. Of the opioids consumed worldwide, 80 percent are consumed in the United States.
Nationally, 115 people die per day from an overdose and in Arizona there have been 910 overdose deaths in the past nine months.
Mohave County is far from immune and is listed as a hot spot in Arizona.
In response, a number of local coalitions are addressing community needs in Mohave County.
Lake Havasu City has the Young Adult Development Association of Havasu (YADAH), which is working to reduce and prevent the use of drugs and alcohol among the area youth.
In Kingman, the Mohave Substance Abuse Treatment and Education Prevention Partnership (MSTEPP) is dedicated to finding solutions to the substance abuse epidemic.
In Bullhead City, the Mohave Area Partnership Promoting Educated Decisions (MAPPED), is motivated to empower the community in healthy decisions that impact substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
All the coalitions are looking for community participation. YADAH meets the second Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Shops at Lake Havasu, suite D430. MSTEPP meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Kingman Police Department. MAPPED meets the first Thursday of each month at 9 a.m. at the Bullhead Mohave County Library.
The Hwal Bay Hmany did gev’k coalition in Peach Springs meets at noon the third Thursday of each month at the Hualapai Health Wellness and Education building.
“The stronger the coalition, the better the opportunity to make positive strides in finding solutions to our Mohave County opioid epidemic,” said Cheryl Clark, community development coordinator with Arizona Youth Partnership. “When people become involved, they feel like they’re making a contribution to their city.”
“We need to come together to find solutions,” Coleman said.
Education is important.
The coalitions are in place to help, but prevention starts at home. People in every community need to get involved and parents need to talk early and often with their children.
“Ignorance is not bliss,” Clark said. “Opioids can seduce any individual. The only way to fight back is with numbers and dedication.”