While the world focused on the coronavirus pandemic, the growing opioid epidemic showed no signs of slowing down.

PRESCOTT VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Almost a year since she died, Hannah Cupp's family remembers the 17-year-old as a force of nature.

Hannah Cupp

Hannah Cupp

"She can get along with anybody, absolutely anybody," said Sommer Cupp, who is Hannah's stepmother.

"If you're having a bad day, she'll make you feel like 10 times better," said Randi Cupp, who is Hannah's sister.

Both Sommer and Randi still refer to Hannah in the present tense, even though she died last March, the victim of a fentanyl overdose. But Sommer says Hannah did not ingest a pill. She simply touched it. She says she knows this because she saw it on video. 

"Unfortunately, there's cameras in our house for a reason," said Sommer.

Arizona's Family Investigates will have a full report on the tragic death of Hannah Cupp, and the growing opioid crisis in our state tonight after the Grammys.

"So she picks up this pill, sets it on her nightstand, turns around, and on this video that I have, that nobody else will watch, my daughter wipes her nose. Just like this. Wipes her nose and shut her door. That is the last live moment I have of my daughter. Thirty-three minutes later, she died. You know, she died."

Hannah Cupp's death was far from isolated last year. While the world focused on the coronavirus pandemic, the growing opioid epidemic showed no signs of slowing down. Preliminary estimates show the number of opioid overdose deaths in Arizona rose by nearly 70-percent in 2020, above the total from 2019. That is despite the pandemic and its related lockdowns. The 2020 DEA National Drug Threat Assessment concludes: "Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids will likely continue to contribute to high numbers of drug overdose deaths in the United States in the near term."

"We would've thought because of COVID and the quarantine that it would have actually decreased, but that wasn't the case," said Lt. Marco Santana, from the City of San Luis Police Department. Santana says his department responded to 39 fentanyl overdoses last year. That was up from 22 in 2019.

"It's always like a roller coaster. There are months when you have numerous cases, and there's months when you don't see anything," said Santana.

He says the close proximity to the border means there is a constant supply of counterfeit Percocet and oxycodone pills on the city streets.

Two years ago, we used hidden cameras to show how quickly someone could buy fake Percocet in Mexico. They're called "M-30s," and they're made with cheap, dangerous fentanyl. Those pills are making their way to the Phoenix area and into the hands and mouths of teenagers.

"You know, just because they're home doesn't make them safer," said Stephanie Siete, who educates young people about the dangers of drugs through her work for Community Bridges.

She says the deals that used to take place in city parks or school hallways are now taking place on cell phones with social media apps.

"I'm just telling you right now, as opposed to being outside or at school, they didn't lose the opportunity. You know, everyone's been retrained on how to connect on the internet, and now they have more access to more dangerous things," said Siete.

Siete says it's vitally important to warn children about the dangers of these drugs. But that doesn't always work.

Hannah Cupp

Sommer Cupp thought she had great communication with her stepdaughter, Hannah. But it just took one touch for the fentanyl in one pill to kill her.

"It's a matter of talking to them because if they don't know what it is that they're looking out for, how are they going to be aware of not to touch it?" said Sommer.

Morgan Loew's hard-hitting investigations can be seen weekdays on CBS 5 News at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
 
 

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