Arizona DPS boss Silbert says fentanyl ‘most dangerous drug’ as overdose deaths increase
PHOENIX — Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Heston Silbert said the agency has maintained a heavy focus in getting fentanyl off the streets as overdose deaths in the nation hit record highs.
Silbert told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday the agency is encountering more fentanyl this year during stops and busts.
He added that DPS has seized about 385 pounds of fentanyl in 2021.
“We’re seeing more of it,” Silbert said. “So it’s hopefully to the point where we are bringing more attention to it, but [the numbers] have just gone up.”
Opioid deaths in Arizona continue to trend upward.
They reached a high of 1,982 in 2020, a 45% increase over 2019.
The National Center for Health Statistics released data Wednesday that showed U.S. overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 in a 12-month period for the first time.
“Fentanyl has become more of what I consider the most dangerous drug to enter America in my 32-year career in law enforcement,” Silbert said.
Experts believe the top drivers of overdose deaths are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.
Drug overdoses now surpass deaths from car crashes, guns and even flu and pneumonia. The total is close to that for diabetes, the nation’s No. 7 cause of death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.