The Phoenix Police Department is fighting the opioid epidemic with a multi-faceted approach to the problem, including enforcement, treatment resources, education, and a prescription medicine turn-in program.
“One of our biggest challenges right now is related to the opioid epidemic that has struck families and communities across the nation,” says Phoenix PD Chief Jerri Williams. “Like many of these communities, Phoenix has not been immune to the dangers presented by abuse of prescription drugs and their illegal street counterparts, which are often disguised and sold as legitimate medications.”
Williams urges users to seek help. “Help is available. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please urge them to work with their medical service provider, reach out through the Angel Initiative, or the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family,” she says.
The Phoenix PD says the local opioid problem is about more than fentanyl. The Phoenix Police Crime Laboratory has identified a variety of compounds in illicit pills seized within the city. Some of the additional compounds include: heroin; cocaine; lidocaine, fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, and tramadol.
The additional compounds added to the counterfeit pills are use to either assist in the binding of the substances during production and/or to enhance the effects of the drug. These pills are stamped with pill identifier markings and to the untrained eye look identical to a pharmaceutical product. These chemical compounds can potentially be lethal or harmful to the consumer.
“Every day, people abusing prescription medications or using illegal drugs are overdosing and dying in our community,” says Aaron Thomas, commander of the Phoenix PD’s Drug Enforcement Bureau. “The Phoenix Police Department urges people using prescription medications to work closely with their doctors and follow their treatment plans only as prescribed. Illegally purchasing medications or drugs is extremely dangerous. There are numerous counterfeit medications and illegal street drugs that are being sold as one thing, but contain a number of different chemicals that have created overdose deaths around our state and in our city. We urge those at risk individuals to seek assistance from any reputable treatment facility before another life is lost. Medication return boxes are available at all Phoenix Police Precincts to help properly dispose of unused medications.”
On the treatment front, the Maryvale-Estrella Mountain Precinct of the Phoenix PD is piloting the Arizona Angel Initiative in West Phoenix. The Arizona Angel Initiative allows citizens to walk into a police precinct, turn in their drugs and request treatment without fear of prosecution.