Alarming number of overdose deaths in Arizona creates call for action.
The Arizona Republic reports at least 716 people in Arizona are believed to have died of opioid-related overdoses during a six-month stretch of 2017, far exceeding previous death statistics that span an entire calendar year, according to the state health department.
Nearly 5,000 overdoses — an average of 190 per week — were reported across Arizona since enhanced tracking efforts were implemented in June.
The death toll from opioids could far surpass 1,000 people for all of 2017 if the preliminary figures averaging 25 deaths a week apply to the five months preceding Gov. Doug Ducey’s June declaration of a public-health emergency.
By way of comparison, 790 Arizonans died of overdoses of opioid prescription medications and heroin in 2016, a 74 percent surge since 2012.
The state said more than 440 babies born in Arizona since June might have had possible drug-related withdrawal symptoms.
Read more and what actions are being taken in The Arizona Republic
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey delivered his State of the State Address Monday in Phoenix and said he would call a special session to deal with the epidemic of opioid addiction.
Ducey said he wants to see more aggressive approaches to curbing painkiller addiction as well as overprescribing by doctors and clinics.
Referring to a report on pain killer prescriptions in Mohave County, Ducey said:
This epidemic requires a more aggressive approach. When we have four doctors, in one small, rural county of 200,000 people, prescribing 6 million opioid pills in just one year – 6 million – something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Read more about Ducey’s special session from KTAR
Learn more in The Phoenix Business Journal
Ducey’s plan includes five elements:
*Limit initial opioid prescriptions for new patients to five days, require electronic prescriptions for opioids and set a maximum dosage of 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day
*Adopt measures to safely prescribe and dispense prescription pain medication. That would include mandating special labeling and packaging for opioids, requiring doctors and pharmacists to complete medical education on opioids and bolstering regulation of pain-management clinics to curb “pill-mill” activity.
*Prevent opioid-use disorder through other pain-management techniques and enforcement actions to curb illegally-prescribed opioids.
*Improve access to medicated-assisted treatment for people battling addiction.
*Adopt a Good Samaritan law that allows bystanders to call 911 during an overdose without fear of prosecution.
Read more about the fixes sought in The Arizona Republic