Arizona is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis.
The number of people who were treated in Arizona emergency rooms for heroin overdoses and prescription drug overdoses both increased from 2013 to 2014, the last year for which complete statistics are available.
As the state’s most populous county, Maricopa County has been hit hard by the state’s rising rates of heroin and prescription drug overdoses — but efforts are underway to help individuals in Gilbert and other communities throughout the county.
In Maricopa County, throughout Arizona, and across the United States, the opioid problem has been fueled by dramatic increases in the abuse of prescription painkillers. Regardless of whether a person begins to use a prescription painkiller for a medical or recreational purpose, the abuse of these drugs can lead to calamitous outcomes, including addiction, overdose, and death.
In an effort to prevent the legitimate medical use of prescription painkillers from turning into abuse, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed into law legislation that limits the number of prescription painkillers that can be provided to individuals whose healthcare is funded by either Medicare or the state of Arizona.
“These large prescriptions of highly addictive substances are incredibly dangerous, and we have to take action now,” the governor said in an announcement that accompanied his signing of the legislation. “By limiting the fills of prescriptions for all state health plans, we hope to encourage private companies to consider similar action.”
But the state level is not the only place where steps are being taken to fight back against Arizona’s opioid epidemic. In Chandler, Arizona, the city’s police department has partnered with area school districts, Chandler Regional Medical Center, and other area organizations to educate people about the risks of prescription painkiller abuse, prevent the over-prescribing of painkillers, and ensure that people who are struggling with pain can find relief without abusing or becoming addicted to prescription painkillers.
The Chandler-area task force also includes groups from Gilbert, a nearby city in Maricopa County. Participants are hopeful that more effective communication and coordination among public and private organizations in these two Maricopa County cities will increase the likelihood that people who may once have been pushed into prescription painkiller abuse will instead be directed toward healthier options.
Dr. Sandy Indermuhle, who is affiliated with Chandler Behavioral Health, discussed this aspect of the task force in a July 15 article on ZFamily.com.
“One of the other things I try to impress on my patients who have chronic pain is really alternatives,” Dr. Indermuhle said in the July article. “Pain medication is not the only answer. Because of our strong relationships with the many of the rehabilitation centers, we are able to call and make that a lot more easy for that family,” she said.