Nov 252015


By Nolan Madden

In light of surprising recent statistics, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has urged the county to target a challenging public health problem through its Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program.

ADHS estimates that in Arizona 50 percent of adults have misused prescription drugs within the past 12 months, with 13 percent admitting to doing so within the past 30 days. Navajo Public Health Services District Program Manager Amy Stradling noted that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

“These statistics are only what has been recorded, so the actual figures are even higher. This is a nationwide epidemic,” said Stradling.

ADHS reports that deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily over the past two decades to become the leading cause of injury death in the United States.

According to the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the Arizona Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics:

*      Enough prescription pain relievers were dispensed in 2013 to medicate every adult in Arizona around-the-clock for two weeks straight.

*      Arizona ranks as sixth highest in the nation for individuals misusing and abusing prescription drugs.

*      Hospitalizations and emergency department visits for poisonings (of which prescription drugs are a leading cause) cost Arizona nearly $500,000 per day in 2012.

ADHS officials approached Navajo County Public Health Services to accept an $86,350 grant of funds provided by the Centers for Disease Control to implement the five-year overdose prevention program through 2020. The program was piloted in Yavapai County in 2012, and resulted in significant reductions in recurrent abuse through 2013 and stabilization through last year.

“Reducing the illicit acquisition and diversion of prescription medications is the main priority ADHS has asked our county to address,” Stradling explained.

“Our strategy will be to work with health care providers on implementing their Controlled Substance Prescription Monitoring Program (CSPMP),” which detects diversion, abuse and misuse of prescription medications classified as controlled substances.

Through the Sign Up to Save Lives campaign, other key initiatives include:

*      A computerized central database to track the prescribing, dispensing and consumption of Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances in Arizona.

*      Assisting law enforcement in identifying illegal activity related to the prescribing, dispensing and consumption of scheduled controlled substances.

*      Providing information to patients, practitioners and pharmacists to help avoid the inappropriate use of scheduled controlled substances.

Patients who often see more than one prescriber may forget to inform each provider about other medications they are taking, or may engage in “doctor shopping.” Or prescribers may overlook checking patient medication histories, increasing the likelihood of dangerous drug combinations or administering excessive dosages.

Along with CSPMP, the county encourages holistic and homeopathic pain management alternatives as ideal tools to keep patients safe.

“We’re really working with educators to provide alternative pain management methods; working with programs that exist in the community, such as chronic disease self-management, where patients can work on things such as diet instead of prescription medications,” said Stradling.