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DEA warns of new variant of fentanyl that’s killed 11 Arizonans

The DEA says the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office has found 11 people who’ve died of suspected overdoses have had para-fluorofentanyl in their system.

Eleven people in Maricopa County have died from a new variant of Fentanyl according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA is concerned about the new version of the synthetic opioid, believing it’s not just in Maricopa County, but across Arizona.

The presence of fentanyl has been increasing over the last few years, and just one pill can be deadly.

“There’s no quality control there’s no equal distribution of drugs in the pill,” Cheri Oz, Special Agent in Charge at the DEA’s Phoenix Field Division said of fentanyl.

Oz said her agents are now warning of a new variant of fentanyl called para-fluorofentanyl (pFF), believed to be 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 said.

The DEA said the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office recently found pFF in 11 suspected overdoses, alongside other drugs.

“It’s not just one guy who’s doing something really bad, this is a whole system of people that are really profiting from our trauma, our tragedies,” Oz said.

The DEA agents in Arizona have seized 6 million fentanyl pills this year according to Oz.

However, she said the price of fentanyl hasn’t gone up in Arizona, which likely means the 6 million pills the agency has seized hasn’t affected dealers.

She adds beyond the 11 suspected overdoses tied to pFF, they’re not sure how widespread the new variant is, but believe it to be across Arizona.

“It wasn’t something that we ever tested for so there’s no way to really know what the scope of it is,” Oz said.

The Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office tells 12 News none of the 40 overdoses related to fentanyl have been related to pFF.

However, Oz said the test to look for pFF isn’t cheap.

“The test is a little bit costly and you would have to know to look for it,” Oz said.

Terry and Annette Mahan know the pain of losing someone to a fentanyl overdose. They lost their youngest son, Danny, almost two years ago.

“There’s a gap that is not replaced,” Terry Mahan said.

The Mahan’s know how addictive the synthetic opioid can be.

“Tried it once at a party on a Thursday, and by Sunday he was hooked,” Terry Mahan said.

To know this new variant of fentanyl could be more deadly is concerning to them.

“Scares the heck out of me,” Annette Mahan said.

They’re now encouraging parents to have tough conversations with their kids now, in hopes other parents won’t be without their children.

“‘You are really playing with fire, you are playing with a loaded gun,’ That’s the kind of conversation, Monday morning quarterbacking, I wish I had the chance, Annette wishes she had the chance, to do over again,” Terry Mahan said.

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