Arizona Department of Health Services releases opioid overdose recommendations

PHOENIX - The Arizona Department of Health Services is rolling out a report in response to Governor Doug Ducey declaring a public-health emergency amid an uptick in opioid overdose deaths.

According to newly released data from ADHS, 790 Arizonans died from an opioid overdose last year — that’s an average of more than two people per day. As a result of the declaration, ADHS is adhering to a new set of guidelines.

The emergency declaration requires ADHS to:

  • Administer an enhanced surveillance advisory 
  • Develop and provide training to local law enforcement on protocols for administering naloxone
  • Coordinate public health effort between state, local and private-sector partners to identify ways to prevent drug overdose deaths

Since June, there has been over 2,100 possible opioid overdoses; 13 percent of which were deadly. However, data also found that the state’s effort to increase access to naloxone has been a success with 85-percent possible opioid overdoses given the overdose-reversing treatment prior to reaching a hospital.

There are also 12 recommendations, including a series of legislative proposals, aimed at reducing opioid use as well as promoting safe prescribing methods.

The legislative proposals include:

  • Impose a five-day limit on all first fills for opioid patients to decrease the risk of dependence and opioid use disorder
  • Require e-prescribing for some controlled substance medications to mitigate fraudulent prescriptions
  • Require pharmacists to check if a patient has been prescribed both an opioid and a benzodiazepine. This combination can drastically increase the risk of a drug overdose.

ADHS has provided nearly 4,000 naloxone kits to law enforcement agencies to help reverse overdoses across the state.

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.

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