Opioid epidemic: Arizona mother on a mission to save lives after losing her son to overdose

The nation's opioid crisis shows no sign of easing up.

According to the latest statistics from the CDC, more than 71,000 Americans died in 2021 from fentanyl overdoses, which is 13,000 more people than the year before, and statistics in 2022 are expected to be much higher

Meanwhile, officials with the DEA in Phoenix seized more than 22 million pills in 2022.

As the crisis continues to skyrocket, many are taking it upon themselves to carry an overdose reversal medication known as Narcan.

Narcan, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, can be given as a nasal spray. Pharmacists at Rosy’s Pharmacy in Phoenix say people no longer need a prescription for Narcan. They can get it over the counter, or even at big-box stores like Walmart and Target. In fact, doctors recommend it when they prescribe patients opioid medications after surgeries.

"it’s just recommended for people that are on high milligrams of opioids, just because of the opioid epidemic and all the overdoses that have been happening," said Ada Ortega with Rosy's Pharmacy. "Narcan usually is prescribed along with an opioid medication. It's just a nasal spray."

Pharmacies also say they are seeing a new medication that is twice as strong as Narcan, and doctors are prescribing that often now.

Mother on a mission

In the Phoenix area, there is a mother who is on a mission to save lives, after her son lost his.

Ashlee Brown is in the medical field, and never thought she would have to use it outside of work.

"This is what we need to save lives," said Brown. "Unfortunately, that's the times that we live in, and it's just better to be safe than sorry."

In 2020, Brown lost her 19-year-old son, Elijah, to an accidental fentanyl overdose.

"He passed away on Mother's Day from a fentanyl overdose," Brown recounted. "He was found in his bed sleeping, but he was my only son. Very special. Special boy, and loved people who came along. Had a heart of gold. Would have done anything for anybody. I just hate that this happened."

Since Elijah's death, Brown has Narcan with her at all times, and wants others to do the same.

"I carry it in my purse," said Brown. "I have one in my glove compartment. I hand it out to friends, people, because you never know."

Besides handing out free Narcan, Brown is also organizing rallies to raise awareness.

"The Fentanyl epidemic is so prevalent," said Brown. "If you can get your hands on it, definitely do it. You never know when you will be in a situation where you are able to save someone."

Brown is planning another Fentanyl awareness rally in May, where she will be handing out more Narcan.

Continuing Coverage on the Opioid Epidemic