Arizona’s making progress in combating the opioid epidemic

Last year there were 949 confirmed deaths from opioids in Arizona. Declaring a public health emergency, Governor Doug Ducey ordered the Arizona Department of Health Services to come up with a plan to combat the epidemic.

In Sept. 2017, ADHS released the Opioid Action Plan which formed the basis for the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act.

The act passed unanimously during a Jan. 2018 special session of the legislature, reflecting a true bipartisan act expected to save lives.

Now, almost a year later, the act has shown considerable progress in its efforts to “curb addictions, expand access to treatment and save lives.”

The opioid epidemic act is being recognized nationally in terms of the gains that Arizona has been able to make. I think it’s because we were able to, in a bipartisan fashion, a year ago, come together and focus,” Governor Doug Ducey said.

According to the Office of the Governor, “in 2018, Arizona has seen a:

  • 36 percent decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions, compared to 2016;
  • 60 percent decrease in the number of patients potentially doctor shopping, compared to July 2017;
  • 58 percent increase in the percent of overdoses referred to behavioral health providers, compared to July 2017;
  • 296 percent increase in the number of naloxone doses dispensed by pharmacies, compared to Sept. 2017.
  • 37 percent increase in the percent of providers who are checking the Controlled Substance Prescription Monitoring Program, compared to July 2017;
  • 78 percent decrease in the number of opioid naïve patients given prescriptions for over 90 MME since 2016*;
  • and 56 percent decrease in the number of opioid naïve patients given prescriptions longer than 5 days, compared to 2016**.

*The average prescription dosage amount in Arizona is 62 MME. At 90 MME or more, the risk of death increases tenfold compared to 20 MME or less.

**The probability of long-term opioid use increases most sharply in the first days of therapy, particularly after five days.”

According to Ducey, the state is heading in the right direction but there’s “much more left to do.”

Emily Richardson

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