A new report from the Common Sense Institute of Arizona (CSI) shared how the growing opioid crisis has economically burdened Arizona.

“Federal border officials have been forced to reallocate scarce resources to the interdiction and processing of migrants since 2020. Failure to complete physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, combined with a lack of enforcement attention, has enabled sufficient flow of fentanyl into the United States to fill a demand shift created in part by the crackdown on mail-order and prescription drugs,” according to the CSI. “Last year, fatal overdoses in Arizona reached the highest level ever reported by DHS [Department of Homeland Security], and data suggests the national numbers will be worse this year.”

The CSI’s report revealed that as of last year, the economic cost of the fentanyl crisis rose to $53 billion in Arizona. This price tag includes substance abuse treatment, law enforcement, health care, reduced productivity, and present value lifetime costs of chronic drug dependence or fatal overdose. This represents a 250 percent increase in cost since 2010 and is far above a $21.8 billion estimate from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2017.

CSI estimated that the cost of fatal opioid deaths would be roughly $23,328 million, and the cost of opioid use disorder would amount to $26,977 million in 2022 for Arizona.

This price increase has a cause; as the CSI shows, fatal opioid overdoses have consistently increased since 2012, from 454 deaths to 2,006 fatalities in 2021.

While discussing the problem, the CSI shed light on the root cause, opioids, first recorded in the 1970s as potentially less-addictive pain management prescription alternatives to morphine. Opioids became very popular; however, the addictive and harmful nature of opioids became known, and as prescriptions peaked at 255 million in 2012, the state and federal governments began cracking down on the drugs.

Yet, as physicians began to roll back the number of opioid prescriptions they handed out, illicit alternatives from China began making it onto American streets. In 2020, legal opioid prescriptions reached a low at 142 million, but during that same year, fentanyl-related overdose deaths rose substantially to over 56,000.

The fentanyl produced by China, which then rapidly enters America through Mexico, is cheap to make, according to the CSI. Due to the abundance of fentanyl entering the U.S., the street price has dropped significantly, only costing roughly $5-10 per pill in 2021, lowering the price of addiction.

The CSI shared that fentanyl can enter America rapidly because of the deterioration of drug enforcement at the southern border. Following the 2020 election and executive orders from President Joe Biden (D), holes were left in the border wall near Yuma, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began encountering historic numbers of migrants. The CSI described the crisis at the southern border as the “perfect storm” for an increase in fentanyl smuggling across Arizona’s border.

Moreover, the CSI expects Arizona state and local law enforcement to have to catch more of the fentanyl coming into the country as CBP is making fewer seizures. Yet, in terms of both resources and workforce, the Phoenix PD has fallen behind the rising drug and violent crime rate.

In response to the CSI’s report, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said, “we will continue taking action to protect Arizonans and stop the flow of these dangerous drugs through the southern border.”

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].