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Phoenix, Tucson, and Arizona

Revised February 2014

Substance Abuse Indicators in Phoenix (Maricopa County), Tucson (Pima County), and Arizona—January 2014

James K. Cunningham, Ph.D.

Overview of Findings: This report up­dates data on drug abuse indicators for the Phoe­nix area (Maricopa County), the Tucson area (Pima County), and Arizona since the last reporting period in June 2013. The key findings for this period are that both numbers and proportions of drug reports identified as marijuana/cannabis in Maricopa County among items seized and analyzed by National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) laboratories decreased sharply between the first halves of 2012 and 2013, and marijuana/cannabis-related hospital admissions in Arizona declined among individuals in their twenties.

Updated Drug Abuse Trends and Emerging Patterns

Cocaine: Numbers of cocaine-related hospital admissions in Maricopa County were flat in the first half of 2013, with 643 admissions, compared with 653 admissions in the second half of 2012, following a downward trend that started in 2007. Numbers of cocaine-related hospital admissions in Pima County declined to 448 admissions in the first half of 2013 from 533 admissions in the second half of 2012; this also represents a continuing a downward trend in Pima County which began in 2007. An age analysis of hospital admissions for Arizona as a whole indicated that essentially all age groups experienced declines in cocaine-related admissions in recent years, although the largest declines occurred among persons in their late thirties and in their forties. Numbers of cocaine drug reports among items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories decreased in the first half of 2013 to 327 drug reports from the first half of 2012, when there were 395 cocaine drug reports.

Marijuana/Cannabis: Numbers of marijuana/cannabis-related hospital admissions in Maricopa County were flat in the first half of 2013, at 2,105 admissions, compared with the second half of 2012 (n=2,106 admissions); marijuana/cannabis admissions have generally been stable since 2010. In Pima County, cannabis-related hospital admissions declined, from 900 admissions in the second half of 2012 to 844 admissions in the first half of 2013; this continued a declining trend that began in 2010. Based on an age analysis of hospital admissions for Arizona, a decrease in marijuana/cannabis-related hospital admissions was observed among persons in their early twenties during the past few years. Both numbers and proportions of marijuana/cannabis drug reports among items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories decreased in the first half of 2013 (n=1,305 drug reports, constituting 29.0 percent of total reports) from the first half of 2012 (n=1,875 drug reports, constituting 32.9 percent of the total).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids/Opiates Other Than Heroin: Numbers of heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions in Maricopa County rose slightly in the first half of 2013, with 3,127 admissions, up from 3,068 admissions in the second half of 2012. Heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions have generally been rising in Maricopa County during the last 10 years. In Pima County, heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions declined in the first half of 2013, to 1,306 admissions; numbers of such admissions also declined in the second half of 2012 (n=1,369, compared with n=1,457 in the first half of 2012). An age analysis of hospital admissions for Arizona as a whole showed that since 2010, hospital admissions who were in the younger and older age groups experienced increases in heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions, while patients who were in their late thirties and in their forties experienced little change in such hospital admissions. Numbers and proportions of heroin drug reports identified among items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories increased in the first half of 2013, while those reports for oxycodone and hydrocodone decreased slightly. Heroin reports increased from 695 drug reports (12.2 percent of total drug reports) in the first half of 2012 to 734 drug reports or 16.3 of total reports in the first half of 2013. Numbers of drug reports identified as oxycodone declined from 267 in the first half of 2012 to 217 in the first half of 2013. Similarly, drug reports identified as hydrocodone declined in number, from 114 reports in the first half of 2012 to 87 in the first half of 2013.

Methamphetamine: Amphetamine-related hospital admissions (which consist primarily of admissions related to methamphetamine) in Maricopa County and Pima County were flat in the first half of 2013. In the first half of 2013, Maricopa County reported 2,214 amphetamine-related hospital admissions, compared with 2,212 admissions in the second half of 2012; there were 552 such admissions in Pima County in the same 6 months, compared with 554 admissions in the second half of 2012. Prior to this, admissions in Maricopa County rose during 2009–2012. In Pima County, amphetamine-related hospital admissions have been stable since 2008. Based on an age analysis of hospital admissions for Arizona, amphetamine-related hospital admissions rose among persons in their early twenties during 2011 through the first half of 2013. In contrast, during that period, there was little change in amphetamine-related hospital admissions among other age groups. Numbers and proportions of drug reports identified as methamphetamine among items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories increased in the first half of 2013, with 1,002 drug reports (22.2 percent of total reports), from 897 drug reports (15.7 percent of total reports) in the first half of 2012.

Other Drugs:  Relatively few drug reports were identified among drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories in the first half of 2013 for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) (n=10 drug reports), TFMPP (1,3-[trifluoromethylphenyl]piperazine) (n=5 drug reports), PCP (phencyclidine) (n=4 drug reports), and BZP (1-benzylpiperazine) (n=1 drug report).

Data Sources: Hospital admissions (inpatient) data came from analyses conducted by the University of Arizona, Department of Family and Community Medicine. Forensic drug analysis data were from NFLIS, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

For inquiries concerning this report, please con­tact James K. Cunningham, Ph.D., Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Arizona, 1450 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719, Phone: 520–615–5080, Fax: 520–577–1864, E-mail: jkcunnin@email.arizona.edu.

This page was last updated February 2014