We hear about accidental overdoses with fentanyl all the time, people who don’t know the pill they’re popping is laced with it. So many people we’ve been hearing about are dying. So who would seek it out intentionally?

This valley man right here started using fentanyl when he was only 19 years old, taking a gamble on a drug he knew was deadly.

“I was curious. Like, okay well, if it’s so “hush-hush” and it’s so taboo then it must be pretty good.”

That thinking, not uncommon. All month long, we’re looking fentanyl’s fatal fall out.

Tonight Nicole Crites shows us what getting clean after fentanyl looks like and how staying clean is more of a challenge with the resources available right now.

With dealers cutting street drugs with fentanyl to get more bang for their buck, a lot of users don’t know what they’re getting, some do. They want fentanyl because it is a faster, stronger high and tonight we have a man, 111 days sober, the longest he’s been clean since he was 14.

Austin Fife died the day after thanksgiving.

“I was in the ICU, in a coma, the whole 9 yards…”

He overdosed on fentanyl. Paramedics had to use 6 doses of Narcan to bring him back.

“The doctor told me that they don’t usually do that. They usually call it after about 2 or 3.”

“For some reason I’m still alive.”

Alive after using fentanyl for 2 years.

“I was curious. Like, okay well, if it’s so “hush-hush” and it’s so taboo then it must be pretty good.”

Sometimes it is sheer curiosity, was that the case for you?

“Absolutely. Sounds like a pretty good time. It is, until it isn’t.”

Austin started using drugs in high school. First Vicodin, then marijuana and alcohol. By the time he turned 19, he moved on to fentanyl chasing a faster, stronger high.

“It’s quick and it’s potent.”

He and a friend got it on the dark web.

“It was cheap, it was really cheap.”

He was snorting fentanyl, buying it in powder form, which is the most dangerous because it can be absorbed through your skin.

“You alright?”

That’s how it first came on our radio two years ago.

“We got an officer with possible exposure to fentanyl.”

When a cop in Ohio overdosed just brushing some off his uniform. Austin knew he was playing with fire.

“As crazy as it might sound, we were very careful. We would put gloves on and we would put masks on. It looked like a real ‘Breaking Bad’ scene.”

Austin transferred to ASU his junior year from Texas and started shooting heroine.

“It was a terrible miserable existence.”

He went to rehab 4 times last year, using Methadone and Psyvoxin so he didn’t have to detox ‘cold turkey’, then relapsed with fentanyl.

“I knew what I was getting.”

“Everybody is using fentanyl.”

Most kids aren’t snorting it, they’re popping pills without knowing what they really are.

“You don’t know, whoever is cutting it or making it or whatever, I mean it could be just one bad batch.”

Lisa Moody is the Clinical Director at Scottsdale Recovery Center where Austin still goes to group 3 times a week. She says most her patients have private insurance and even the best plans aren’t much better than what Access will cover for rehab.
“So we see people having to leave before they’re ready.”

She says trying to save money on rehab winds up costing everyone more, putting people through shorter repeat stints.

“I hear this all the time, ‘I’ve never told anybody this in my life’, people with so much trauma and nobody in their family knows. And trauma is not something sometimes you can work out in 90 days. You know? Unfortunately, insurance, is like really just concerned about the substance abuse problem.”

Do you think there are enough resources out there right now for people like you who want to get clean and stay clean.

“Absolutely not.”

Austin says we have to do more to convince kids not to give in to their curiosities and the D.A.R.E. and ‘Just Say No’ approach aren’t enough.

“Because people say yes, so what happens when you say yes? Instead of taking a field trip to a Zoo, take a field trip to a jail or a homeless shelter.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of things think we need to be real about.”

If we don’t teach our kids the truths and consequences about drugs, they’ll learn from strangers and the streets.

“We’re not going to sweep it under the rug, we’re going to talk about what’s really happening in the world.”

“The only reason I did this interview is because I hope that I can just help somebody.”

Austin’s truth doesn’t get more real than this.

“Before you know it, you don’t really have any friends around you and all you care about is using that substance. It’s not so much a party anymore. It’s kind of dark and miserable.”

Phoenix firefighters see up to 20 ODs a day. Used to take 1 or 2 shots of Narcan to bring someone back. With fentanyl, they’re using everything they’ve got, sometimes 8 doses and calling ahead to the hospital to start a ‘Narcan drip’. It is that powerful, and that’s just a small fraction of the true cost of this crisis.

You know when he said he did this interview just to hope to reach one person and prevent one person from going into this, that’s why we’re doing this whole series.

Powerful stuff.

Yeah, important. If you or somebody you know needs help right now, the State runs a referral line. Here’s the toll-free number to that hotline. 1-888-688-4222. You can find that and many more resources on our azfamily news app right now. Click the ‘Fentanyl’s Fatal Fallout’ tab to see more of our stories in this special month long series.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.