Alarming Statistics Reveal Record-High Opioid-Related Deaths in Arizona
A report released last month by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) shows that Arizona has not been spared from the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.
The report revealed that, in Arizona alone:
- The number of opioid deaths increased by 16% in one year (from 2015 to 2016).
- The number of opioid-related deaths in the last four years has increased by 74 percent.
- In 2016 alone, ADHS recorded 790 opioid overdose deaths. That’s an average of over two deaths every day.
- Of those 790 opioid-related deaths, 482 were from prescription opioids. The other 308 were from heroin.
- Opioid overdoses were the primary cause of death for more than half of the 1,497 drug overdose deaths in 2016.
- The 45 to 54 age range was hit the hardest, followed closely by the 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 age ranges. People under the age of 55 accounted for 80 percent of opioid-related deaths.
- The death rate among white non-Hispanics was nearly twice that of any other ethnic group, accounting for 77.5% of all opioid deaths from 2007-2016.
If the current trend continues, ADHS predicts that by 2019, Arizona will see more than 1,000 opioid deaths per year, and that half of those will be from heroin.
The report also states that the rise in overdose deaths cannot be accounted for by increases in Arizona’s population.
Arizona’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic
These harrowing statistics led Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to declare a state-wide public health emergency on June 5, 2017. As a result, the governor’s office is providing additional resources to ADHS to better understand the problem and develop ways to address it.
Director of Health Services Dr. Cara Christ said in an interview that the first thing that can be done is to stop stigmatizing addiction, so that people will be more willing to come forward and get the help they need to overcome their addiction.
Tracking the Opioid Crisis in Arizona
As a result of the health emergency declaration, ADHS is now releasing real-time reports on the opioid epidemic in Arizona.
For the first two weeks that data was available (June 15-29, 2017):
- 444 possible opioid overdoses were reported.
- 36 of those overdoses were fatal.
- 36 babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
- 325 naloxone doses were administered by first responders (EMS, police and fire department).
- 160 naloxone kits were distributed to the public by pharmacies.
You can view the most current Arizona opioid abuse statistics at azhealth.gov/opioid. The site also features information about the epidemic and what can be done by medical professionals, first responders and community members to address the problem.
The Cost of Opioid Addiction in Arizona
The ADHS report also revealed the approximate cost of the opioid crisis on the health care system. According to the best estimates available, the cost of opioid-related encounters went from $151 million in 2009 to $341 million in 2016 – a 125 percent increase.
The number of opioid-related medical encounters increased from just over 20,000 in 2009 to more than 51,000 in 2016.
What Is Causing the Opioid Epidemic in Arizona?
A number of factors contribute to the opioid crisis, including:
- Using prescription painkillers for chronic pain, instead of for short-term acute pain
- Misuse of painkillers by patients
- Theft or misuse of unused medication by people who have access to a patient’s medicine
Although the medical community is taking measures to cut back on improper use of prescription opioid medication, many patients who are addicted turn instead to illegal opioids like heroin.
Opioid addiction requires professional treatment for detox and recovery. The intensity of the addiction makes it nearly impossible to quit without treatment, which is why anyone suffering from opioid addiction should seek professional help immediately.
Learn what you need to know about prescription painkillers, their connection to heroin, and how to stay safe: