Arizona Struggling with Addiction: Drug Trends and Statistics in 2017

Recently, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a statewide health emergency regarding the devastating effects of opioid addiction. Arizona is one of the states where the rate of opioid related deaths is on the rise, so the governor is giving the issue his full attention.

Governor Ducey pointed out that most of us know someone impacted by substance abuse – our family, our friends or our neighbors. That’s why it’s so important for Arizona residents to educate themselves on the issue and find out how they can help someone in their community end a destructive addiction.

Overdoses Are Increasing Rapidly

The governor announced a state of emergency in response to a huge jump in opioid deaths in 2016. A recent report revealed the following alarming statistics:

  • Opioid deaths increased by 16% in the last year.
  • Nearly 800 Arizona residents died from opioid overdose, with many more near-fatalities.
  • This trend shows a 74% increase over the past four years

Ducey called for the state to increase its efforts to fight the epidemic. He called for coordination between the state government and the medical community to seek solutions to opioid-related deaths. His declaration will soon require more frequent updates from state officials, doctors and hospitals. Health officials will seek ways to:

  • Prevent the abuse of prescription opioids by altering current prescribing practices.
  • Educate healthcare providers on prescribing guidelines.
  • Offer expanded treatment access, especially Medication Assisted Treatment.

Part of the effort to combat the epidemic involves distribution of the overdose-reversal drug, Naloxone, to law enforcement across the state. Officers will use these medications to save lives in communities that experience a high incidence of overdose or near-deaths.

Tragic Real-Time Updates

The numbers of people overdosing across the state are startling. In fact, state agencies are recording statistics for the epidemic in real time. Here are the statistics from June 15 – July 6.

  • 661 possible overdoses were reported
  • 40% of the reports involved women, 60% were men.
  • 8& of the possible opioid overdoses resulted in death.
  • 543 Naloxone doses were administered outside the hospital by EMS and law enforcement.
  • 204 Naloxone kits were distributed to the public by pharmacies.
  • There were almost the same number of overdoses reported in people ages 35-44 as there were in people between 55 and 64.
  • The largest number of overdoses were in people between 25 and 34 years old.
  • Maricopa County experienced the highest number of overdoses, with many more in surrounding counties.

Though these numbers are alarming, one statistic particularly stands out. During that brief period of just a few weeks, there were 52 Arizona babies born with possible drug-related withdrawal symptoms.

Babies are exposed to opioids through the placenta, so they’re born with a chemical dependence. Innocent babies suffer excruciating pain from withdrawal. When a baby is born dependent on opioids, he or she experiences vomiting, sweating and diarrhea.

Combating Deadly Counterfeit Drugs

Arizona’s opioid problem is compounded by the presence of counterfeit drugs with deadly ingredients that have hit the streets. Fentanyl is a painkiller 50 times stronger than heroin. Users may think they’re taking Xanax or opioids and end up taking a sedative that can kill them in just one dose. Earlier this year, Arizona authorities said counterfeit OxyContin pills led to 32 deaths in the metro Phoenix area alone.

Fentanyl-laced pills are produced mostly by regional drug cartels. The drug is cheap to produce and easy to access.  Pill presses used by the cartels can make thousands of doses at once. Fentanyl is prescribed for cancer patients who have built up a tolerance to other painkillers and is tightly regulated in the United States.

The DEA calls fentanyl’s entrance to American streets a crisis of historic proportions and reports 44 Americans die every day from taking this deadly drug that is sold as a counterfeit to other, better-known drugs.

It’s not only heroin users who are in danger of overdose. Most who died from taking fentanyl didn’t know what they were taking. Many thought they were buying prescription medication and didn’t realize that one dose of fentanyl could prove to be deadly.d

Aid In Case Of Overdose

Part of the way Arizona is fighting this epidemic is to offer free Naloxone to the public. Naloxone is a medication known as an “opioid antagonist.” If someone is experiencing the symptoms of an overdose, Naloxone can save their life.

People who die from an opioid overdose suffer a severe depression of their central nervous system and respiratory system. They also may have:

  • Slurred speech
  • Extremely small pupils
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Eventually breathing stops

Naloxone can be administered by people with minimal training. It is injected or sprayed into the nose, and it has no potential for abuse.

When your loved one struggles with addiction and you know the risks are high, you wonder what you can do. Naloxone is available free to families and friends of those suffering from addiction. Families with loved ones at risk of an overdose can order Naloxone to keep on hand in case of an emergency. While Naloxone is available to save lives, the best option is to get loved ones the help they desperately need before Naloxone is necessary.

Finding Help via Addiction Treatment

Though alarming, it’s important to remember deaths involving drugs and alcohol are 100 percent avoidable. By making strides as a community to educate ourselves and extend resources to those less fortunate, Arizonans can put a stop to the rising number of opioid deaths.

At The Treatment Center, our mission is to transform the lives of every individual and family member who walks through our doors. We understand how deadly the nation’s opioid epidemic is firsthand and have plenty of experience guiding people off of these dangerous pills and into a life of sobriety. Please review some of our opioid addiction resources if you have more questions about this disturbing health trend.