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DIGGING DEEPER: Drug overdoses surge in July

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TUCSON (KVOA) - There has been a huge spike in drug overdoses in the last month.

Normally, there are about 14 cases a month.

However, according to Tucson Police Department, there have been 23 overdoses since July 1. TPD said 20 were fatal. However, three people survived due to the early intervention of narcan.

Det. Tim St. Cyr is part of the Counter Narcotics Alliance Unit responsible for investigating overdoses.

"Our squad's main goal is to stop the influx of drugs that are causing these overdoses, getting people into treatment, as well as to stem the flow of the drugs causing these issues," he said.

The five-member squad has been very busy lately.

Last Wednesday, a person who overdosed survived and was able to help detectives arrest Rodolfo Ruiz and Andronico Arvizu.

Ruiz was charged with unlawful sale of a narcotic drug, unlawful sale of a dangerous drug, unlawful possession of a dangerous drug for sale, unlawful possession of a narcotic drug for sale, two counts of possession of a firearm in a drug offense, unlawful possession of marijuana for sale, and unlawful possession of narcotic paraphernalia.

Arvizu, on the other hand, was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous drug for sale, two counts of unlawful possession of a narcotic drug for sale, unlawful possession of a dangerous drug, unlawful possession of a narcotic drug, possession of a firearm during a drug offense, involving a minor in a drug offense, unlawful possession of narcotic paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Detectives also seized over 1,000 counterfeit Xanax pills.

"The most fatal overdoses right now are related to counterfeit drugs with fentanyl mixed in them," St. Cyr said.

So why the surge in overdoses?

Dan Barden who is the vice-president of clinical services for CODAC said, one of the biggest issues on the street is fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a lot stronger, a lot more potent and is extremely dangerous when it is bought on the street and not from a pharmacy. Barden said it is hard to know what you are getting because the drug is mixed in and hidden.

"You're not really sure how big the dose is that you are getting and what you're really taking," Barden said. "If you're not used to it, don't have the tolerance, you can overdose."

St. Cyr said the pandemic also has a lot to do with people using more drugs.

The detective said it helps people cope with stresses of unemployment, paying for rent and buying groceries.

"And being confined to the house and not being able to get out hs led to an increase in drug use and an increase in unsafe drug use," he said.

Barden said since the pandemic, he has noticed there are not as many people coming for treatment.

"I don't know if people are afraid. I don't know if they're concerned about going out," Barden said. "When the stay-at-home order went into place, we saw a significant drop."

Tucson Police said the recent seizure is 1,000 potential overdoses prevented.

St. Cyr wants the community to know there is help available for people who are battling addiction.

For more information, codac.org.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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