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National Overdose Awareness Day calls for a hard look at continuing crisis

Posted at 9:45 PM, Aug 31, 2022

August 31 is National Overdose Awareness Day. It's a time to take a hard look at the crisis that continues to claim lives.

"It is an urgent, urgent situation. It is life or death," said Amy Neville.

Back in 2020 Amy Neville lost her 14 year old son, Alexander to fentanyl poisoning.

Neville says Alex thought he was taking oxycodone that he got from someone he contacted through Snapchat.

"Death was not on our radar. We thought we were still dealing with 'somebody stole grandma's prescription and was passing it out to friends,' right? Because that was the narrative at the time," she said describing her family's mindset at the time.

Through the Alexander Neville Foundation, Amy has made it her mission to warn others about the dangers of fentanyl.

Neville wants to clarify the difference between poisoning and what people usually equate to an overdose, which is ingesting lots of pills.

"Alex only took one pill and that single pill had enough fentanly in it to kill four people," she said "They think they're getting a legitimate prescription pill and they're dying!"

Overdose deaths are increasing. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were 2,006 opioid overdose deaths in Arizona in 2021. That's nearly double from the 1,116 deaths in 2018.

Since 2017, there have been a total of 7,597 opioid related overdose deaths in Arizona.

"I got caught up with opioids and I started using Oxycontin," said John Koch.

John Koch overdosed on opioids three times before finally kicking his addiction.

"I've lived on the streets and experienced a great amount of loss," Koch said reflecting on his life.

Koch now works with Community Medical Services, a walk-in treatment program started in Arizona with a location near the I-17 and Cactus.

Koch says they welcome people 24/7 to get treatment and stress the importance of the anti overdose medication Narcan.

"Narcan holds a deep part of my heart. Having three clinical overdoses it brought me back to life," Koch said.

Koch testified before the Arizona State Senate back in 2016, telling his story to encourage lawmakers make Narcan available to the general public.

"I looked up and the senators were crying," he said, remembering that life changing day. "They thanked me for being in recovery and that bill passed that year."

According to the ADHS, 30% of opioid related deaths happen to people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old.