DEA warns about synthetic drug use on the rise in Arizona

- The battle against illegal drugs in the U.S. wages on as heroin and meth are a big problem in many states, but here in Arizona, it's synthetic drugs that are being found more and more by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The chemical composition of these drugs are constantly changing and they continue to grow more potent. The DEA continues to see a surge in synthetic drug use in Arizona. In particular, the use of synthetic opioids. One version is called Fentanyl, which is even more dangerous than heroin.

The DEA warehouse in Phoenix is filled ceiling to floor with synthetic drugs. Shelves are lined with synthetics like bath salts and spice and the new kid on the block, synthetic opiates.

"As we've had an increasing drug abuse problem where kids are getting addicted to the opioid-based prescription drugs, the Oxycontin, the Hydrocodone and those type of things, we've seen an explosion of the creation of these synthetic opiates," said Special Agent Doug Coleman.

Coleman heads the Phoenix division of the DEA. He says synthetic opioids come in many forms, including a synthetic version of Fentanyl, a pain prescription medication that's so powerful, just one-fourth of one grain can be toxic.

"It can get into the air and you can breathe it in. You can overdose from that or if you get in on your skin and it absorbs in your skin you can overdose," explained Coleman.

Coleman says manufacturers in China and India are selling synthetic Fentanyl online, marketing it to heroin addicts and young, first time users.

"It's flashy and it's designed to get kids hooked on this stuff and get these kids to look at these packaging materials," said Coleman.

The drugs arrive in just a weeks' time and parents are unaware the doorstep delivery could kill their children.

"It's on the internet. We can't possibly stop all of it. We're counting on you to help us. Pay attention to what they're buying. Pay attention to what they're looking at on the internet and make sure that you're not one of the people who has to deal with a heroin addiction problem in your house or God forbid a heroin overdose," said Coleman.

In the last two years, the DEA seized 50 pounds of Fentanyl. They say that's enough to kill millions of people. 

If you're found in possession of a synthetic opioid, you will be arrested and face prison time.

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