On Sept. 7 the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC), the leading criminal justice resource agency in the state, released the results of its biennial statewide survey that included over 50,000 students from 301 schools in eighth, 10th and 12th grades from all 15 counties across Arizona.
The Arizona Youth Survey is the nation’s largest and longest-running survey of youth and allows schools to assess the frequency of problematic behaviors and potential solutions for providing resources to their students. Utilizing the data provided in the Arizona Youth Survey, state and local policymakers can make well-informed decisions in developing effective strategies to combat youth substance abuse and improve communities throughout Arizona.
An alarming statistic from the 2022 Arizona Youth Survey is that 47% of eighth graders had never heard of fentanyl vs. 25% of 12th graders. Additionally, approximately 80% of students had not talked with their parents or guardian about the dangers of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 1,171 1-to 24-year-olds died of an opioid overdose from 2017 to 2021 in Arizona.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, “Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.”
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and is the most dangerous illicit drug nationwide. Of the students that are acquiring fentanyl, many pills are illegally obtained through unknown sources or social media platforms. It is imperative to note that one pill can kill.
“Nearly 50% of eighth graders, 33% of 10th graders and 25% of 12th graders have never heard of fentanyl or the dangers of this drug. This is not acceptable,” said Andrew T. LeFevre, executive director of the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. “As a state and nation, we must do more! In the last 12 months, 80% of students reported never having had a conversation with their parents about this dangerous drug. We must work together to change this statistic.”
On a positive note, the survey showed a continued decline in overall substance use. The most commonly abused substance for 12th graders in a 30-day period is alcohol at 22.6%, followed by marijuana at 17.5%, E-cigarettes at 14.8% and marijuana concentrates at 13.6%, all of which are on the decline from previous years.
ACJC, in collaboration with Arizona State University’s School of Criminology & Criminal Justice, conducted the 2022 Arizona Youth Survey to assess at-risk behaviors and measure the prevalence of substance abuse - including alcohol, tobacco and other dangerous drugs - among eighth, 10th and 12th graders. Additionally, the AYS assesses the prevalence and frequency of youth gang involvement, gambling, violence, bullying and other risky behaviors in Arizona, and helps stakeholders better understand the risk and protective factors correlated with these behaviors.
“The Arizona Youth Survey has been an incredible resource for policymakers, anti-substance abuse coalitions and researchers by providing a comprehensive look at at-risk behaviors among our youth statewide,” said ACJC Vice-Chairwoman and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk. “It is troubling to see the number of students who are unaware of the dangers of fentanyl. We must work together to educate parents, guardians and students across the state.”
State and county profile reports are available on ACJC’s website HERE.
To learn more about fentanyl and how to protect your children, visit Substance Abuse Coalition Leaders of Arizona HERE.
Partnership to End Addiction: drugfree.org.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: samhsa.gov.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration: dea.gov/resources/facts-about-fentanyl.
National Suicide Hotline – Call 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
To find a Naloxone distribution center near you, visit Naloxoneaz.com.