The ongoing opioid crisis has taken a devastating toll on communities throughout Arizona. In addition to drug-related medical issues and overdoses, arrests and criminal charges for drug charges have upended the lives of numerous Arizonans. Despite legislative and public health initiatives

Unfortunately, unlawful activity involving opioids shows no sign of slowing down. Police seizures of opioids including heroin and fentanyl have increased recently increased significantly along the port of entry to Arizona from Mexico.

An increase in opioid seizures

The Arizona-Mexico border has always seen a high level of drug activity, with smugglers from either country trying to bring contraband into the other. Recently, however, the points of entry along the state’s border have seen a dramatic rise in opioid confiscations.

According to information from the Pima County Health Department, seizures of heroin have increased 20% since 2019. Seizures for fentanyl are up 40% from 2019. The amount of fentanyl pills that authorities have confiscated thorough July—95,000—is already almost double the amount confiscated in all of 2019.

What is causing the increase?

Law enforcement bodies and public health officials posit many theories for the rise in activity. These include:

  • An increase in foot traffic between borders due to the recent travel bans
  • Residents turning to drugs to escape pain from the economic downturn
  • Drug manufacturers and traffickers increasing activity due to the economic downturn
  • Fewer rehabilitative options due to the restrictions on facilities

Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that such activity can have devastating results.

Using harsh penalties to deter smuggling

Though every case is different, authorities tend to impose very harsh sentences on defendants convicted of smuggling, trafficking, possession and other crimes. This is both to punish the suspects for their offenses and to deter would-be criminals. The penalties for drug convictions include fines, probation, mandatory drug sentencing and even prison time. No matter the reason for criminal opioid activity—addiction or profit—the consequences can last a lifetime.