The emergency declaration for opioid overdoses continues in Arizona, as does the hard work of people across the state doing their part to curb the opioid epidemic. Latest data from the opioid surveillance show that more than 3,200 opioid overdoses have been suspected, with over 400 of those being deaths since June 15.

Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far:

  • Males 25-29 have the highest rates of suspected opioid overdoses.
  • 37% of people experiencing a suspected opioid overdose had an opioid prescription in the two months prior to their overdose.
  • The majority of overdoses occur at home.
  • The most commonly cited pre-existing health conditions of those with suspected overdoses was chronic pain. Depression and other behavioral health conditions were also common health conditions noted.
  • Meth and heroin were the most frequently cited drugs involved in reported neonatal abstinence syndrome.
  • About 40% of people experiencing suspected opioid overdoses who had a prescription in the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program had been prescribed both benzodiazepines and opioids in 2017. When these medications are combined, it is so dangerous that the FDA gives it a “black box” warning.
  • About 40% of people experiencing a suspected overdose that had prescription history in the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program (CSPMP) had received opioid prescriptions from 10 or more providers.

The data provides important information given that only about 25% of clinicians prescribing controlled substances checked the CSPMP prior to prescribing. On October 16, a new mandate went into effect that requires clinicians to check the CSPMP prior to prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine. Other states implementing such mandates have experienced reductions in people with 4 or more prescribers or pharmacies, reductions in opioid prescribing, and reductions in Morphine Milligram Equivalent daily doses. All of these are important factors in reducing overdoses. ADHS will continue to monitor these indicators on a monthly basis to assess progress.

On Oct. 9, the executive order that required 24-hour reporting ended. Because the emergency continues and the need to stay vigilant remains, ADHS worked with the Attorney General’s Office to develop emergency rules for continued reporting. Those new emergency rules went into effect October 9, ensuring continued reporting of suspected opioid overdoses, suspected opioid deaths, suspected cases of infants experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome, naloxone dispensed by pharmacists, and naloxone administered by first responders (law enforcement, EMS).

In order to ease the burden on mandated reporters, the timeline for submitting reports to ADHS has been extended from 24 hours to 5 days. You can review the new emergency rules. ADHS will be initiating regular rule-making for the new reporting rules, and stakeholders will have opportunity to provide input and help us further shape those rules in the future.

Our team also put together online resources for employers concerned about how to play a role in reducing the impact of opioids. The resources highlight chronic pain as well as drug free policies that employers can use. The Healthy Arizona Worksites Program provides guidance as well as local resources for employers.