The numbers are a sobering reminder. According to a new report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, 790 people died in our state last year from an opioid overdose. That’s an average of more than two people every day.
The number of overdose deaths has gone up by nearly 75 percent since 2012, when 454 were reported.
Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the department, said in a statement that officials know people using opioids for pain do not intend to become hooked or understand the potential for death. She said the rising number shows the effects opioids are having on the community.
“This significant increase in deaths is alarming and our response will require everyone in our community working together including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, first responders, and community members,” Christ said.
While it is also concerning that heroin overdoses have tripled since 2012, Tucson.com pointed out that more Arizonans have died from prescription opioids.
While Christ said some of these can be people misusing the drugs for recreational purposes, she suspects there are people who have become addicted to them because of chronic pain.
One indication of that, she said, is the pure data.
Christ said the death rate from opioid abuse and overdose is higher among those in the 45- to 54-year-old age group than it is among those any other 10-year spread. This is a group, she said, which is less likely using the drug for recreation.
KGUN-TV in Tucson put together a short video on the report. You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.
According to The Daily Courier in Prescott, these numbers have not gone unnoticed as there have been numerous efforts to curb our state’s growing opioid problem.
Last year lawmakers approved creating a centralized database that doctors are supposed to check before writing certain prescriptions. The idea is to curb “doctor shopping,” with patients going from one medical office to another to get prescriptions for not just opioids but other controlled substances.
Gov. Doug Ducey also signed an executive order last October limiting the first prescription of opioids to no more than a seven-day supply in cases where the state is providing the reimbursement.
On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona pharmacists can now dispense naloxone, a counter to opioid-related overdoses, over the counter so that family members can have the drug on hand if needed.
On her own blog, AzDHS Director Dr. Cara Christ listed several ways you can help if someone you know is battling opioid issues.
- Help us educate family, friends, and others at risk of overdosing about the importance of Naloxone and the critical steps to take if overdose happens.
- Talk with your children and convince them to steer clear of drugs and alcohol by staying active with healthy alternatives to drug use.
- If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about the medications you take.
- If you suffer from chronic pain, talk with your doctor about non-opioid treatment options for pain management.
Share your thoughts on this new report and how we can slow this alarming trend in our state. Working together to find innovative solutions to the health issues facing Arizonans is another way we are working toward our long term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!