Fentanyl seizures escalate in Pinal County as death toll from accidental drug overdoses rise

In 2020, 93,000 people across the United States died from an accidental drug overdose, and this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert for the first time in six years, because of the increase in counterfeit pills.

Officials with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office say they have had more overdoses than COVID-19 deaths in 2020, but not every overdose was fatal. In fact, they get a fentanyl-related call every couple days.

With such sobering statistics, one woman is trying to raise awareness, after suffering a mother's worst nightmare.

"It was just a normal night. I went upstairs and knocked on her door, and there was no response, and I just knew. I knew something was terribly wrong," said Misty Terrigino. "She was just in bed, like any other day, on her belly with her laptop open. I grabbed her and checked for a pulse."

Terrigino's 17-year-old daughter, Kaylie, had died from an accidental fentanyl overdose. The incident is still under investigation, but they know the pill was bought over Snapchat, and delivered straight to their door.

"She just wasn't that kind of child," said Terrigino. "She did not go to parties. She was an Honor Roll student. She was just like any other child."

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb says his team is struggling to keep up with the recent influx of illegal M30 fentanyl pills coming through the U.S.-Mexico Border.

"Honestly, we're seeing a disaster," said Sheriff Lamb. "85% of the people that are in my jail right now, are there because of alcohol or drugs. So yeah, it's a big impact in our communities."

Every year, seizures are escalating in Pinal County, going from zero pills in 2018, to 200,000 pills in 2020, and now over 1.1 million so far in 2021.

"We expect those numbers to go even higher before the end of the year. That is staggering and should be alarming to the American people, because we are likely not catching even 10% of what is coming in this country," said Sheriff Lamb.

Looking across the entire southwest border, fentanyl seizures have more than doubled just this year, and are ending up across America.

"It only takes one time. It only takes one pill. It's the perfect recipe for a disaster, and that’s exactly what happens."

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