Poisoning (including alcohol and prescription drugs) causes more deaths than car crashes in Arizona.  A recent report issued by the Trust for America’s Health ranked Arizona as having the 6th highest death rate for drug overdose in the country in 2010.  Arizona also had one of the highest rates (4th highest at 5.7%) of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers for people aged 12 years and older for 2010-2011.   National Survey of Drug Use and Health indicates that the age group with the highest percent of nonmedical use in Arizona was 18 to 25 year olds.  

Committed folks across the state are taking action on this issue.  We’re part of the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative, a multi-agency, multi-systemic approach to addressing the epidemic.  As part of this initiative, new guidelines have been issued for prescribing controlled substances in Emergency Departments and dispensing of controlled substances by pharmacists.  In addition to statewide strategies the initiative has also piloted community-based actions in Yavapai, Pinal, Graham, and Greenlee Counties.  

Preliminary results from the pilots have been impressive: 

  • 34 drop boxes are operational in the pilots and ten take-back events have been held, collecting 3,100Kg of drugs;
  • 5 of 6 hospitals are implementing the Emergency Department Guidelines in the pilot communities;
  • Over 1,400 prescribers are receiving quarterly report cards from the Board of Pharmacy;
  • 201 Law Enforcement Officers have received Rx Crimes curriculum;
  • 8,628 youth and 893 adults have received the Rx360 curriculum;
  • 53,272 people have been reached via community events;
  • Over 353,000 people have been reached via public messaging and media methods;
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) sign up has increased 58%, 86% and 50% for prescribers in Yavapai, Pinal and Graham/Greenlee Counties, respectively;
  • 32%, 28%, and 41% of prescribers are signed up for the PDMP in Yavapai, Pinal and Graham/Greenlee Counties, respectively vs. 25% at the state; and
  • PDMP use has increased 60% for prescribers in Yavapai County. 

We also recently pledged our commitment to participate in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) 2014 President’s “15×15” Challenge to reduce both the rate of nonmedical use and the number of unintentional overdose deaths involving controlled prescription drugs 15% by 2015. Here are just a few of the strategies we committed to, along with the partners in the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative

  • Convene key stakeholders to develop prescribing guidelines for community practitioners to complement the dispensing guidelines and emergency department prescribing guidelines already developed and in use;
  • Design professional and public education strategies to support implementation of these guidelines and to increase patient literacy related to expectations of pain, and adherence to treatment;
  • Require licensed healthcare facilities to develop a policy regarding prescribing controlled substances;
  • Issue report cards to each individual prescriber in the pilot sites of the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative- compare the practitioner’s prescribing habits to their peer and identifying “outliers”;
  • Promote the use of Screening, Brief Invention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) protocols among hospitals and community providers; and
  • Create a searchable online database of treatment resources.