Drugs play factor in more than 65% of 2022 heat-related deaths

66% of heat deaths last year in the state involved substance abuse, oftentimes meth.
Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 2:30 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Maricopa County recently released its 2022 heat report, which found that substance abuse accounted for about 66% of heat-related deaths.

Meth was a factor for 90% of deaths while under the influence, but other significant factors include fentanyl, mixed substance abuse, and alcohol. Due to this data, county health officials say people should look out for one another during this heat wave as drugs and their effects are very lethal in these extreme temperatures.

Dr. Holly Geyer, a substance abuse expert for the Mayo Clinic, said that whether your drug use is illicit or prescribed, you must be aware of your drugs and prepared. “Look for those risk factors that you might have to increase your ability to be susceptible to what these drugs can do, including being out in ambient temperatures above hundred degrees,” Dr. Geyer said. “If you’re in your car and your car registers that high, you’re not in a safe zone, so find air-conditioned somewhere.”

How do stimulants affect our ability to endure heat?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the effects of stimulants include the following:

  • Increase our body temperature
  • Prevent blood flow
  • Affect our decision making
  • Prevent your body’s ability to sweat
  • Take away that unpleasant sense of overheating

Since this data release, the Maricopa County’s Public Health Department has warned Arizonans to look out for and help protect each other, especially if they know someone struggling with substance abuse. Assistant Medical Director, Dr. Nick Staab, said the most important thing people can do right now is to make a plan to get out of this heat and to get their hands on Narcan.

“The best thing to do is have access to Naloxone or Narcan that is now widely available in the community at different distribution points,” Dr. Staab said. “If you have an overdose situation or a situation where the heat has caught up to you, having naloxone on hand and knowing how to use it is an essential part of that emergency.

The heat report also found that 54% of these heat-related deaths involving drug use were amongst the county’s homeless population. The doctor said it’s making the county look at its level of access to resources for that vulnerable population.

Narcan is widely available and can be found at a local pharmacy near you. Click/tap here for a list of community-based organizations and clinics providing free Narcan access.

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