The Drug Problems in Arizona
Drug overdoses are killing Americans at an alarming rate. From 2000 to 2014, there were almost half a million deaths across the country. The rates have been climbing steadily since the 1990s, but 2014 showed a sharp upwards spike, increasing 14 percent in 12 months.
Arizona has a particularly unsightly history when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse. In 2014 the state ranked sixth in prescription drug overdoses and tied for fourth for alcohol-related deaths. In fact, around 13.4 percent of the working-age deaths were attributed to alcohol in some way.
Cocaine has been highly abused in Arizona as well. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported approximately 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older in 2014. Adults aged 18 to 25 years showed the highest rate of cocaine usage. Yet it appears a new problem is on the horizon, quickly taking hold of the number one spot.
Methamphetamines, the New Number One
Methamphetamines have become incredibly pervasive in Arizona. In 2015 alone, authorities seized almost 6,400 pounds. Even more alarming, this number represents a massive 294 percent increase over the past six years. In 2010 only 1,613 pounds were seized. The usage rates have now surpassed cocaine, which is more difficult to procure.
Erica Curry is a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Phoenix Division. According to Curry, meth has been recognized as the most prevalent drug partly due to Mexican cartels. The cartels are shifting cocaine trafficking efforts to Europe, where they are more profitable.
The Switch to Methamphetamines
With cocaine trafficking shifting to Europe, people are forced to look for other types of stimulants. Many are switching to methamphetamine, also supplied by the cartel. Curry says meth is more profitable for dealers because of the high demand. Addicts may need to use as often as every few hours to maintain the sensation of euphoria.
One former Prescott area former addict said she smoked twice an hour. “Even at my job, I would find bathrooms,” she said. “I could lock myself in the bathroom, smoke meth, and then go out and finish my mail route.” Today she is a manager at a recovery center and has been clean for eight years.
The Dangers of Methamphetamines
One of the biggest problems with this drug is how quickly it takes over the user’s life. All behaviors and actions redirect to focus on staying high. Haney said she would be awake for four days in a row when she first started using. Then, she could only focus on being high. She lost considerable weight because she didn’t eat regularly.
Sarah Harmon had a similar experience a few years ago. She was homeless before the age of 20 and resorted to stealing food and clothing. “I didn’t feel human anymore,” she admitted. “[Meth] came before everything.”
Meth Smuggling In Arizona
Meth labs are quite rare in Arizona, although there are still occasional cases. For the most part, manufacturing takes place in Mexico because of the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005. This law was signed in by President George W. Bush to limit the decongestant pseudoephedrine, a major ingredient in meth. The law limits the amount of over-the-counter medicine one person can purchase. Further, it is tracked by unique product IDs.
In Mexico, on the other hand, there are no restrictions on pseudoephedrine purchases. Drug producers can create hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine at one time and cart it across the border. Curry says this equals “pure profit for the Mexican cartels.”
The smugglers also advance their techniques. Curry says they have found meth in lotions, shampoos, and even toys.
Heroin, the Number Two
Although meth easily takes the top slot for drug abuse, heroin is a strong contender. It can be used in smaller doses than methamphetamine, but is not as easy to acquire. Even so, thousands of people turn to the substance each year. In 2014, 605 people required emergency room treatment for heroin overdoses.
Why Heroin Is So Prominent
Like most drugs, heroin begins with legal prescription drugs. Christina Corieri is the Health and Human Services Advisor for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. According to Corieri, 75 percent of heroin users begin with prescription pain relievers. This presents a unique environment for addiction, considering the amount of prescriptions dispensed in the United States. According to IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 4.3 billion prescriptions were filled in 2014 alone.
“If you look at the United States we actually represent only 5 percent of the world’s population, and we represent 80 percent of the prescription drugs,” says Corieri. This means it’s incredibly easy to procure drugs and lay the foundation for addiction. Once people cannot sustain their needs on prescriptions they turn to heroin – the street version.
The Addiction Mind-Set
One of the biggest problems with prescription drug addiction is people may become hooked on the pain relievers without realizing it. Brittany Pinkston became addicted to opiates after a hand injury when she was 17. Pinkston says she didn’t consider herself to have a problem because the pills came from a doctor. Yet, within a month she was completely dependent on the drugs to help her sleep and work.
The Heroin Effect
Once people transition to heroin, it can be nearly impossible for them to recover their lives. The drug is deadly, particularly because it is often cut with other substances to dilute it and make it more profitable for the manufacturers. These substances can range from caffeine to rat poison, causing their own interactions and potentially becoming more dangerous than heroin itself.
Heroin use is becoming more prevalent in the United States, despite its second place ranking in Arizona. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a six-fold increase in the total number of deaths from 2001 to 2014. Because heroin is a more cost-effective substitute it can drive the cycle of addiction much faster than some other substances.
Methamphetamine and heroin are both highly addictive and powerful substances, quickly becoming the drugs of choice for users. In many cases, the only way to recover is by seeking professional treatment. Reflections Recovery Center is Prescott, Arizona’s premier treatment facility. The trained professionals and proven techniques can be the key to forming healthier habits and coping mechanisms.