iStock_000007982375XXLargeArizona continues to battle the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

On average, an Arizonan dies every day from an overdose due to prescription pain relievers . We’ve been on the battle lines with partner organizations, such as the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, and the Board of Pharmacy, as part of a multi-systemic approach in the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse Initiative.

We have taken several actions over the last few years to combat the problem, including:

  • In partnership with professional organizations, issued Emergency Department and general practitioner guidelines for appropriate and safe opioid prescribing
  • Instituted rules for licensed healthcare facilities to have policies on prescribing controlled substances
  • Worked with the University of Arizona to develop free, online CMEs on safe and effective prescribing
  • Mapped permanent drop box locations to help the public find these easier. Held a Call to Action meeting for health care providers and a two-day conference about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
  • Began implementing a four-year $3.6 million grant from CDC to prevent overdose deaths related to prescription opioids

We also convened a dedicated group of health care professionals to provide clinical expertise and input into actions that can be taken to promote responsible prescribing and dispensing policies and practices. This Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse Health Care Advisory Team met last night to discuss recent movement at the national and state levels, including the new CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. The team is providing input into the development of new CME and will be exploring strategies to increase provider use of the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program.

One of the movements on the national level is a special tour being conducted by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy. We are excited that the Surgeon General has selected Arizona as one of the states to visit to raise awareness about the impact of prescription drug abuse in the state and across the country. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy will visit Phoenix on Monday, June 13. He will be hosting a Grand Rounds discussion at the University of Arizona Medical School Auditorium from noon to 1 p.m.

We would love for any health care providers to join us at this event. In order to attend, you will need to RSVP. Please pass this information to others that would be interested in attending and discussing this extremely important public health issue. For the general public, Arizona State University and the Surgeon General are hosting a community town hall at the ASU Downtown Campus at 4 p.m. To register for the town hall, click on this link.