The Fountain Hills Coalition reminds parents and other residents to be on the lookout for illicit fentanyl pills circulating here and throughout the state.

Illicit fentanyl is dangerous and 100 times more powerful than morphine. Overdoses have occurred throughout Arizona because drug cartels and others are adding illicitly-produced fentanyl to heroin, meth and cocaine to increase their potency.

“And some people believe they are purchasing another drug, like Xanax, and they don’t know it’s laced with fentanyl,” said Mike Scharnow, coalition board member and Town Councilman.

“Those type of situations can easily lead to overdose deaths.”

The Fountain Hills Coalition for the past decade has urged families to talk now, and often, about the dangers of any drug use.

“With illicit pills available virtually anywhere, it’s very important to remember that any pill, if not obtained personally and in its original packaging, may be counterfeit and contain fentanyl,” Scharnow added.

These counterfeit pills have no visible indication as to their contents.

Scharnow concluded, “It’s important to remember that even a small dose of fentanyl can cause the user to overdose or die, and such incidents have increased in Arizona in recent months.”

As a new year begins, Scharnow said the local coalition is teaming up with other drug-prevention groups around the state to coordinate a prevention campaign aimed at fentanyl, meth and counterfeit pills.

Besides “talking early and talking often” about the dangers of drugs, Scharnow said residents can obtain Naloxone (brand name, Narcan), which can be administered by anyone to reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available without a prescription at local pharmacies.

“We encourage community members to obtain naloxone, particularly if a family member is using opioid drugs, whether through a legal prescription or due to a use disorder,” Scharnow said.

For more information, visit opioidOD.com. The coalition’s website is fhcoalition.org.

New variant a concern

Fountain Hills Fire Chief Dave Ott came across a warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration regarding a new variant of fentanyl.

A recent news report by KPNX-TV said that 11 people in Maricopa County died in 2020 from the new variant.

DEA officials said the new synthetic opioid is likely available throughout Arizona.

The presence of fentanyl has been increasing in recent years in Arizona, which was the subject of a recent panel discussion hosted by the Fountain Hills Coalition.

“There’s no quality control, there’s no equal distribution of drugs in the pill,” said Cheri Oz, special agent in charge at the DEA’s Phoenix Field Division.

The DEA is now warning of a new fentanyl variant called para-fluorofentanyl (pFF), likely made by drug cartels out of Mexico.

“It’s more potent and more addictive, and you need less of it in a pill to have a user become addicted,” Oz added.

All first responders in Fountain Hills are equipped with Narcan, which can be used to counter an opioid drug overdose.

Ott reported recently that his department used the drug twice in 2020 in Fountain Hills.