PRIMER: UPDATE: Combating The Opioid Epidemic

News Release

December 11, 2018

Over the weekend, Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez wrote about Arizona’s continued progress in the fight against opioid addiction. (Arizona Republic: We're finally making a dent in Arizona's opioid epidemic. Here's why)

Valdez discussed Arizona’s efforts going back to last year, saying:

“In 2017, there were 949 confirmed deaths from opioids in Arizona. That year, Arizona’s conservative Gov. Ducey recognized the need for the state to aggressively intervene. He a declared a public health emergency and ordered the (The Arizona Department of Health Services) to come up with a plan.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services, under the leadership of Dr. Cara Christ, released the Opioid Action Plan in September 2017. The comprehensive plan formed the basis of the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which passed unanimously during a special session of the Legislature called by Governor Ducey in January of 2018.

Less than a year removed from the passage of the bipartisan plan, Arizona continues to see progress in efforts to curb addictions, expand access to treatment, and save lives.

In 2018, Arizona has seen a:

  • 36% decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions, compared to 2016;
  • 60% decrease in the number of patients potentially doctor shopping, compared to July 2017;
  • 58% increase in the percent of overdoses referred to behavioral health providers, compared to July 2017;
  • 296% increase in the number of naloxone doses dispensed by pharmacies, compared to September of 2017;
  • 37% increase in the percent of providers who are checking the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program, compared to July 2017;
  • 78% decrease in the number of opioid naive patients given prescriptions for over 90MME since 2016*;
  • And 56% decrease in the number of opioid naive 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. More can be found HERE.

There’s more to be done, and Arizona will continue to work to combat the opioid epidemic and save more lives.