Recovery expert talks decreased opioid overdoses in Arizona

As the world tackles the coronavirus pandemic, it may be easy to forget about Arizona’s epidemic, the opioid crisis.

FOX 10's Steve Nielsen dug through the data and learned monthly overdoses are at their lowest levels since 2018.

It might be easy to just attribute it to another impact of COVID-19, but a recovery expert says this drop has been years in the making.

"A little part of me is like, 'Yes, hallelujah!' said Michelle Sproule with the Scottsdale Recovery Center.

She says it’s not just COVID-19 quarantines lowering the numbers, this is the result of years of work, saying for months more people have been coming in for treatment and that means less people are overdosing.

"We have seen a lot of clients come in for addiction," Sproule said, adding, "I think that speaks volumes. That maybe people are actually starting to get treatment."

Another factor in the lower number, more first responders also have access to Naloxone, also known as Narcan, an overdose reversal drug.

According to numbers from Arizona's Department of Health Services, there were 270 overdoses in the state in April. That’s the lowest since 260 in December 2018.

Fentanyl overdoses, the deadliest of all overdoses, are the lowest since April 2019.

Another big victory, benzodiazepine and heroin overdoses are the lowest since the state first starting collecting data in 2017.

"I have like a hesitant excitement, it’s exciting to see that numbers are going down but when you’re boots on the ground and in the field, it’s hard because you’re still seeing people dying from this disease every single day," Sproule explained.

However, she says COVID-19 will leave its mark in the coming months. "We’re going to see a surge in the next few months of people that have been self medicating in some way, shape or form during the quarantine and social distancing protocols," she said.

They’re fully prepared for any surge and also stressed it’s a good thing to have more people seeking treatment because it means they’re looking for help.

For more on the drug-related numbers, visit: