Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Phoenix and Arizona: June 2013

James K. Cunningham, Ph.D.

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:

  • There was a continuing decline in cocaine indicators.
  • There was a rise in hospital admissions among aging methamphetamine users.

Treatment/Hospital Admissions

Cocaine-related inpatient hospital admis­sions in Maricopa County (Phoenix area) declined from 2007 through 2012. Cocaine treatment episodes (as a percentage of total treatment episodes) were also lower in 2012 compared with 2007. Amphetamine-related hospital admissions increased during 2009–2012 (most amphetamine-related hospital admissions are probably related to methamphetamine, a type of amphetamine). The bulk of this increase in amphetamine-related hospital admissions was among persons age 40 and older (i.e., older users). Heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions rose in 2012, extending an upward trend that has continued since 2005 (heroin/opioid-related hospital admissions include admissions related to heroin and other opioids). Primary heroin treatment episodes (as a percentage of total treatment episodes) decreased in 2011 and remained lower in 2012. Marijuana/cannabis-related hospital admissions were flat in 2012.

Drug Seizures

In order, the top four drugs submitted to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) from the Maricopa County area during 2012 were marijuana/cannabis, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. Oxycodone, a prescription opioid, was the fifth most common drug report identified among drub items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) (ecstasy) reports among drug items analyzed by NFLIS laboratories decreased in 2012.

Poison control center calls

Poison control center calls for THC (tetryhydrocannabinol) homologs (e.g., “Spice”/”K2”) and “bath salts” (substituted cathinones) decreased in 2012.


Emergent human immunode­ficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) rates related to injection drug use have declined slowly but steadily over the past several years.


The ability to cultivate poppy crops (for opium/heroin) and marijuana crops in northern Mexico is possibly being compromised by drought. Some smugglers are apparently using air cannons to shoot marijuana over the border from Mexico into Arizona.

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