Arizona distributes fentanyl testing strips as deadly pills disguised as other drugs flow across border

Posted on October 4, 2022

Arizona is reportedly distributing fentanyl testing strips to combat the worsening flow of the illicit drug being trafficked at increased volumes across the southern border. 

In 2021, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed legislation legalizing test strips that can detect the presence of the potent opiate fentanyl. 

Since then, a $100,000 federal opioid grant has been crucial in arranging deliveries of fentanyl test strips to several participating counties, an Arizona Department of Health Services spokesperson told FOX 10 Phoenix.

So far, the state of Arizona has distributed fentanyl test strips to six counties: Pima, Coconino, Mohave, Cochise, Navajo and Yavapai. 

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Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers seized more than 26 pounds of fentanyl pills at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Gila Bend on Sept. 23, 2022. 
(Arizona Department of Public Safety)

Maricopa County Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on funding to make fentanyl test strips widely available in Arizona's most populous county.

“People that are going out doing recreational cocaine on the weekend or buying that Xanax or buying that one Percocet, a simple swab can show you that, ‘Hey, if you’re completely naive to opiates, that this is going to stop your heart and kill you,’” Nick Baker, who survived a fentanyl overdose in September 2017, told FOX 10 Phoenix, speaking of his work for a non-profit serving the homeless. 

Bags of fentanyl pills seized at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Gila Bend, Arizona. 
(Arizona Department of Public Safety)

Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jesus Gastelum said that about 1,200 pounds of fentanyl have been seized so far this year, already surpassing the 830 pounds of fentanyl seized in 2021. 

Colorful fentanyl pills seized near Gila Bend, Arizona, on Sept. 23, 2022. 
(Arizona Department of Public Safety)

Most of the drugs were trafficked across the southern border from Mexico, Gastelum said, and traffic stops have led to the seizures of fentanyl pills hidden in bags, suitcases or behind car parts. 

In just one incident last month, Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers seized more than 26 pounds of fentanyl pills at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Gila Bend on Sept. 23. 

“If you haven’t already, please talk to your loved ones — especially kids and teens — about the dangers of taking unknown pills,” DPS warned. “Pills laced with potentially deadly amounts of fentanyl are now seen in many colors — not just blue — and may be labeled ‘M30’ to resemble commonly prescribed oxycodone tablets.”

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Drug seizures are up despite the Arizona Department of Public Safety operating under its largest staffing shortage since 2018, with the agency down by at least 315 members, according to FOX 10. 

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