Every day, approximately 128 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose. In 2018, nearly 70% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the misuse of prescription opioids alone costs the United States $78.5 billion a year. Opioid abuse and addiction is a national crisis that’s affecting America’s public health system, as well as the nation’s social and economic welfare. Like most states, Arizona has felt the ripples of the nation’s opioid epidemic. Every day, approximately 2 Arizonans die from an opioid overdose. Since the summer of 2017 up until now, Arizona has had more than 6,800 suspected opioid deaths. Luckily, Arizona has several action plans and specific legislation in place to help battle the opioid epidemic.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a specific group of drugs that interact with opioid receptors in your brain and body. Even though opioids come from a natural source, the opium poppy plant, they can be very addictive and can damage your brain and body if you misuse them. There are two main types of opioids: medications prescribed by doctors, also called “painkillers,” and illegal opioids, also called “street drugs.”
Some of the most commonly used opioids include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine
- Heroin, which is illegal
The Risk Of Opioid Addiction
Most times, doctors prescribe opioids for chronic pain. Sometimes, doctors use opioids to help ease pain after surgery or traumatic injuries. But opioids do more than relieve pain. When consumed, they also release neurotransmitter chemicals known as dopamine, which produce pleasure. This influx of dopamine can trick your brain into thinking it needs a consistently high level of such chemicals in order to feel “happy, normal, and fully functioning.” This can cause your brain to become chemically dependent on opioids, which, in turn, can lead to a higher tolerance for the drug and eventually addiction.
Opioid drugs can be consumed in both legal and illegal varieties. Whichever types are used, their effects on the brain and body are potent. Chronic use of opioids can easily result in addiction, leading to long-term consequences.
How Has Arizona Responded to the Opioid Crisis?
Arizona legislators, behavioral health experts, and law enforcement personnel have been battling the opioid epidemic for more than 3 years. The response, which has occurred in stages, includes:
A Public Health Emergency Declaration
After noticing an alarming increase of opioid deaths in 2016, Arizona governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in 2017. The public health emergency prompted a state-wide initiative that aimed to:
- Decrease the number of opioid deaths
- Prevent opioid addiction
- Improve the way doctors prescribe opioids to patients
- Increase public awareness about the risks and dangers associated with opioids
The Arizona Department of Health Services published the steps needed to accomplish these goals in the September 2017 Opioid Action plan.
An Opioid Action Plan
The September 2017 Opioid Action Plan was one of the first strategies put into place after Arizona declared a state of emergency. The action plan, which is still in effect, aims to prevent opioid use disorder, identify safer ways to manage pain, and prevent opioid overdoses in the state. The specific strategies used to reach those goals include:
- Improving opioid prescribing and dispensing practices. Under this action plan, doctors, pharmacists, and clinicians in Arizona have been asked to avoid prescribing opioids greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME). If doctors choose to prescribe opioids greater than 50 MME, they must notify patients of the risks of taking opioids and regularly assess the patient’s treatment regimen.
- Improve access to opioid addiction treatment. One of the more productive ways the action plan has improved access to opioid addiction treatment is by working with schools to educate students and include substance use treatment in their health curriculums.
- Reducing opioid deaths. To help reduce the number of deaths caused by opioid use, the action plan aims to increase physicians, clinicians, and law enforcement officers’ access to naloxone, a medication that helps treat and prevent overdose in an emergency situation. The action plan also helped jumpstart the Good Samaritan Law in Arizona, which allows people to help someone they believe is ill, injured, or in danger of overdose without penalty or the threat of being sued.
The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act
After Arizona’s public health emergency declaration, the state legislature passed the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act in 2018. Under the act, the state of Arizona pledged to invest $10 million into providing opioid addiction treatment for people both with and without insurance. The AOEA also made good on its promise in the action plan and provided an estimated 20,000 naloxone kits to Arizona law enforcement officers. As a result, Arizona has seen a 13 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions and fewer opioid deaths, as well.
Opioid Response Grant Funds
Last year, Arizona received more than $20 million in State Opioid Response grant funds from the federal government. This grant has allowed Arizona to continue to curb the opioid epidemic. With the grant, Arizona can continue to:
- Increase access to medication-assisted treatment throughout various parts of the state
- Build awareness of opioid risk
- Provide and distribute naloxone to help prevent and decrease the number of fatal opioid overdoses.
How We Treat Opioid Addiction
Here at StoneRidge Centers, we’re proud to call Arizona home. We provide programs specifically designed to treat prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. Our treatment programs combine brain science and clinical support.
Since misusing opioids interferes with the brain’s delicate chemical balance, our staff members will work with you to restore your brain to its optimum state of health. Our comprehensive programs include evidence-based therapy, nutrition, and exercise.
Opioid addiction challenges don’t have to control your life. We can meet you wherever you are on your recovery journey and help treat opioid abuse. Call us today at 928-583-7799 if you or a loved one have addiction challenges.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.