iStock_000015566280XXLargesmUnintentional drug overdoses reigns as the leading cause of accidental death nationally and in Arizona. We have worked with several organizations for the past four years to help implement the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative. We recently welcomed United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to conduct Grand Rounds with clinicians and others at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to discuss this very important public health problem.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is focusing on three main strategies to treat this public health crisis: prevent prescription drug abuse through improving prescribing practices, increasing access to medication assisted treatment, and expanding the use of naloxone.

Naloxone has emerged as one of the promising solutions to the prevention of an overdose death . It is safe, effective antidote to opiate overdose. Recent literature supports early access to Naloxone through community-based models such as law enforcement, family and EMT’s.

Arizona pharmacists will soon be able to dispense naloxone without a prescription to people at risk of an overdose, family members, or community members. Prescribers may also prescribe or dispense naloxone to family members and community organizations that provide services to people at risk of an opioid-related overdose. We recently published statewide data in our EMS database on how often our paramedic first responders are providing naloxone in the field. Although these numbers are underreported it will help provide us near real time information on combating this important issue.

Naloxone is one aspect of a set of comprehensive strategies that concerned providers and organizations are taking action on to make big inroads into the unintentional overdose epidemic in Arizona. We will continue to work with our partners to identify and implement new strategies to reduce the number of overdoses in Arizona.