Arizona Patient Samples Show a 261 Percent Increase in Fentanyl Positivity Since 2019

A new study from the California-based Millennium Health (MH) showed that fentanyl positivity increased in Arizona by 261 percent between the first half of 2022 and 2019.

“We have already seen too many Arizona families lose loved ones to drugs. Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with public health and safety authorities, health care providers, and community organizations to proactively address drug exposures and help prevent drug overdose deaths,” said Angela Huskey, PharmD, CPE, Chief Clinical Officer at MH.

MH told The Arizona Sun Times via email that the urine drug test (UDT) samples used in the study came from 45,000 specimens from substance use disorder treatment practices (SUDTP). In 2019, the positivity rate was 8.6 percent, which jumped up to 30.9 percent in 2022, giving the 261 percent increase.

Moreover, MH mentioned that it has presented this information to a Phoenix school district and is “eager to do more of this moving forward.”

Maricopa and Pima Counties saw the biggest increases within the state, with Pima exposures increasing by over 1000 percent.

In a previous study conducted by MH professionals, the organization found that urine drug test (UDT) results correlate with overdose mortality rates. MH tested 500,000 unique UDTs from SUDTPs around the nation, and between 2013 and 2020, found an increase in positive tests lined up with an increase in deaths on a national, state, and county level. Methamphetamine and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, showed the strongest correlation.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that fentanyl-related overdoses in Arizona increased by over 43 percent between 2019 and 2022, compared to the 51 percent increase seen nationwide during the same period. From January to June 2022, Arizona’s mortality rate hovered around 2,700.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated that as little as two milligrams of fentanyl could be lethal. MH suggested that one of the significant contributors to the death count is illicit fentanyl being present in counterfeit pills and other illegal drugs. According to the MH’s Signals Report on drug use trends, nearly all UDT results that tested positive for heroin also tested positive for fentanyl, which was also found in 41 percent of positive methamphetamine and 36 percent with cocaine. Between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl mixt-ins with other drugs increased nationwide. The report suggested that the best way to combat the fentanyl epidemic is to come up with treatment options for multi-substance addictions.

“Unfortunately, clinical guidelines tend to address solitary SUDs, which makes it challenging to develop treatment strategies for those with multiple SUDs,” according to the report. “Rather than addressing fentanyl alone, treatment and prevention efforts need to take a more global position, accounting for the multiple drugs used along with opioids.”

Furthermore, Arizona is not the only state seeing an increase in fentanyl exposure. MH also conducted studies for Washington and Minnesota, which each saw significant increases in overdose deaths. The Signals Report also revealed that fentanyl positivity rates increased across the entire nation, although heroin by itself did decrease.

As for fentanyl entering the country, Nogales Port of Entry Director Michael Humphries revealed officials made another significant drug bust on Wednesday. Officer found 211,200 fentanyl pills and an additional 2.4 pounds of fentanyl powder concealed within the back set of a vehicle. Of the confiscated pills, 60,000 were “rainbow fentanyl,” which officials say may be a cartel tactic to move more of the opioid into the county by disguising it as candy.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Woman at Loves Ones Bedside in Hospital” by RODNAE Productions.


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