Arizona has new ideas, new recommendations and a new plan to battle the state’s growing opioid epidemic. A new report just released shows another spike in suspected opioid overdose deaths this summer….the report also has some thoughts on how we can better fight the opioid problem.
Officials say they can’t confirm a definitive increase in deaths until final cause reports are available. But the state report released Wednesday showed Arizona had 280 suspected opioid deaths from mid-June through Aug. 24. A previous report noted 790 opioid total deaths in 2016 (up from 638 in 2015).
The report states there were more than 2,300 suspected overdoses during that period throughout all but one of Arizona’s 15 counties.
According to Tucson.com, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Director, Dr. Cara Christ, released a dozen recommendations and guidelines to help stem the growing number of opioid deaths in our state. Among them….
The state’s top health official wants to limit how many pills with opiates patients can get at once, outlaw paper prescriptions for those drugs, and ban doctors from giving out the drugs themselves.
Dr. Cara Christ also wants opioid bottles to have a red cap to help educate patients that this isn’t just another drug.
Christ said Wednesday those steps are needed to combat a rising death rate from overdoses of the drug, both legal and otherwise. The director said she believes broad-based action is necessary and that the problem has reached epidemic proportions.
“It’s at its highest point ever,” Christ said.
KJZZ Radio added, “ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said limiting the first fill of painkillers to five days for people who have never taken opioids before could prevent them from becoming addicted. “Recently data came out from the CDC that showed the risk of long-term opioid use significantly decreases after day five. Most people will no longer need opioids after that for an acute injury and post surgery,” Christ said.”
The new report comes three months after Governor Doug Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in our state. The new numbers indicate more than two Arizonans die every day from an opioid overdose.
An excerpt from an AzCentral.com story said, in broad terms, the new report’s recommendations aim to “reduce opioid-related deaths, increase awareness, address prescribing and dispensing of drugs, reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of opioids, and improve access to treatment.”
However, ABC15 in Phoenix pointed out that the new recommendations were not a hit with everyone.
The International Pain Foundation, based in San Tan Valley, released a statement responding to the recommendations.
“The problem with more regulations is that it is not addressing the heart of the problem, it is looking at the addicts needs and not the chronic pain patients. Over and over again regulations are being put into place without the input of the chronic pain patients,” said iPain President Barby Ingle.
Share your thoughts on the alarming new numbers, the recommendations put forward, and whether you believe there are other ways to fight the opioid epidemic in our state. Generating meaningful dialogue around the important health issues affecting our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!