'It is terrifying:' Record year of fentanyl seizures leaves Arizona authorities reeling, families grieving

Gilbert resident Allen Cain has been working as a cop for more than two decades, and he always came across overdoses. But he never thought it would happen to his family.

"My daughter got one pill, and that one pill - it ultimately took her life," Cain said.

His daughter was just 25 years old when she died from an accidental fentanyl overdose.

The amount of fentanyl the Drug Enforcement Administration has seized this year is the most they've seen in history, and they're expecting things to ramp up in the last few days of the year, especially around New Year's Eve.

"These young people, they’re playing Russian roulette with the pills they’re getting," Cain said. "There’s no control. They don’t know what’s in them."

Meanwhile, in San Tan Valley, Misty Terrigino's 17-year-old daughter, Kaylie, had died from an accidental fentanyl overdose back in April. The incident is still under investigation, but they know the pill was bought over social media and delivered straight to their door.

"She purchased a pill on Snapchat that she believed was something else, and it was actually a fentanyl laced pill," Terrigino said.

The DEA says these counterfeit pills are popping up at historic rates.

"It is terrifying how much fentanyl is out there right now," said Cheri Oz, a special DEA agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division. "This is by far our busiest year."

So far this year, more than 9.5 million pills have been seized by the DEA in Arizona alone, up from six million last year. Just last week, the DEA, Scottsdale Police and the Arizona Attorney General's Office worked to seize more than 1.7 million pills in a two-month-long drug bust investigation.

"The Sinaloa Cartel are primarily responsible for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl into the United States," Oz said.

DEA lab testing reveals that 4 out of 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. Their ‘One Pill can Kill’ campaign helps provide resources and tools for people, including facts about counterfeit pills, photos of what to look for, and more. Their goal is to help save lives and educate the public on the dangers of these easily accessible pills. 

"Arizona is the gateway for fentanyl into the United States, so we are able to seize and prevent a lot of the fentanyl that is intended for the rest of the United States right here in Arizona," said Oz.

The best thing parents can do is talk to their kids about drug use. It's also a good idea to have Narcan around in a first aid kit, which helps reverse the effects of an overdose.

More resources: https://www.dea.gov/onepill

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