The Pima County Medical Examiner confirmed that a 61-year-old Tombstone woman died in April from a fatal combination of methamphetamine and the prescription narcotic Fentanyl, not the highly toxic drug cocktail of Krokodil as initially reported.
Krokodil, a potentially deadly mix of codeine, gasoline and other substances, is on the rise in Mexico, but Drug Enforcement Administration officials said it has yet to cross into the U.S.
State and federal drug officials are more concerned with the rise in methamphetamines that might have played a role in Carol Walters’ death on April 2. That week, City Marshall Miller Mitchell told the City Council Walters had died from Krokodil, which people call the poor man’s heroin.
But Keith Boesen, director at Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, said Krokodil is actually more “expensive to make than it is to just buy heroin, especially in Southern Arizona.”
Boesen said that there have been no cases of Krokodil in Arizona and he doesn’t expect it to be a problem in the future.
He and other law enforcement authorities are more concerned with the increasing problem of methamphetamine in Southern Arizona.
Boesen said that there has been an increase at area hospitals of patients suffering from methamphetamine exposure. The poison control center, which collects data from all counties outside of Maricopa, reported 89 cases of meth exposure in 2013, up from 61 cases in 2012.
The center reported the number of patients hospitalized for meth-related illnesses rose from 18 in 2012 to 28 in 2013. Half of those patients were in their 20s and 30s.
The DEA reports the supply of Mexican methamphetamine is increasing in the United States. Federal drug officials seized 22,046 pounds of meth coming over the Southwest border in 2012, up from the 4,409 pounds seized in 2008, according to DEA reports.
The agency said large-scale domestic meth production will continue to diminish in the United States but will not disappear.
There were nine methamphetamine laboratory incidents in Arizona in 2012, which was a dramatic drop from the 33 incidents reported in 2008. There were only five incidents in 2011.
Law enforcement officials throughout Cochise County are reluctant to talk about drug problems in Tombstone and surrounding towns. No one would talk on the record for this story.
Dr. James K. Cunningham is the principal investigator for Department of Family and Community Medicine’s Methamphetamine and Other Illicit Drug Education program at the University of Arizona. He said in a report to the United States Division of Epidemiology that calls about amphetamine exposure into poison control centers in Arizona increased in 2012. Cunningham said that amphetamine-related hospital admissions also jumped in 2011 and 2012.
Miller said he was relieved that Walters did not die of a Krokodil overdose.
“I was relieved we did not have a Krokodil problem here in Tombstone,” he said. “I am sorry to lose a member of the community. If we did have this drug in our midst we would want to stomp it out as soon as possible.”