A to Z

Fact check: Kari Lake’s fentanyl death claims are false

By: - October 10, 2022 3:41 pm

Fentanyl overdose deaths are a serious problem in Arizona and across the nation, but they have not surpassed deaths caused by COVID-19. Drew Angerer | Getty Images

GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s claim that fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of death in Arizona is false, according to an Arizona Mirror fact check. 

At a rally in Mesa with former president Donald Trump on Sunday, Lake claimed that fentanyl was the “number one cause of death” for those aged 18 to 45, adding that over 4,000 people have died from overdosing on the drug in the state. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is far stronger than other commonly abused opioids and has been partially responsible for an increase in the number of drug overdose deaths both nationally and locally. 


Synthetic opioid overdoses accounted for 1,108 deaths in 2020 placing them behind accidents as the leading cause of death for those aged 18 to 45 in the state, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Accidents took the lives of 2,240 Arizonans in that age bracket in 2020. Suicide is the third leading cause of death. 

Synthetic opioids in the database can also represent other medications such as tramadol, however, fentanyl has largely taken over as the synthetic opioid of choice for those who use the drugs illegally, due to its cheap price and the ability to buy it in bulk. 

In an interview with CBS News, Lake further went on to compare fentanyl deaths in the state to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and COVID-19 deaths in the state. 

“We are losing more people to fentanyl in Arizona since Joe Biden took office than 9/11 or during COVID,” Lake said on Meet the Press. 

Arizona has lost 31,406 people to COVID and 2,977 people were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2020, the CDC reported 1,476 deaths related to synthetic opioids in Arizona and the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,888 overdose deaths related to both synthetic and non-synthetic opioids, and 94.5% of those were prescription related. 

The Lake campaign did not respond questions from the Mirror asking for clarification. 

Arizona has seen a boom in fentanyl use and trafficking in recent years. Last year, the Scottsdale Police Department and Arizona Attorney General’s Office seized a record 1.7 million fentanyl tablets and over 10 kilograms of fentanyl powder during a single investigation. 

During a two-month period in 2021, the Drug Enforcement Agency in Phoenix seized over 3 million fentanyl pills and 45 kilograms of fentanyl powder, and made 40 arrests. 

The drug has also overtaken heroin for the first time as the most-trafficked drug across the U.S.-Mexico border. In Pima County, health officials have begun to distribute test strips to help residents determine if their drugs contain fentanyl.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.