The Opioid Epidemic and Arizona

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Opioid Epidemic Arizona

The opioid epidemic has grown dramatically between the 1990s and now in the United States and Arizona. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 128 people in the United States die of an opioid-related overdose every day. Further, the Center for Disease Control in the US estimated that the cost of the opioid crisis is approximately $78.5 billion a year. That figure includes costs of healthcare, police involvement, addiction treatment, and lost productiving.

Ultimately, the opioid epidemic affects thousands of people across the United States. That’s why we want to help you better understand what opioids are and why they are so dangerous. To begin, opioids are a group of substances that includes the following:

  • pain relievers available through prescription
  • the illegal drug heroin
  • synthetic substances such as fentanyl

Each of these types of opioid is dangerous. However, illegal substances are not to blame for the opioid crisis. One important piece of the puzzle is that physicians over-prescribed these types of opioids for years:

  • oxycodone (OxyContin®)
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • codeine
  • morphine

Just as many factors contributed to the opioid crisis, many factors are also contributing to the solution. We want to help you learn more about the opioid crisis so that you or a loved one can receive the treatment you need. If you have questions about whether you or a loved one needs treatment for an opioid addiction, please call us today at (480) 378-0660.

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In Arizona, the opioid crisis affects many people as well. In 2018, 1,106 Arizonans died of an opioid-related drug overdoses. That’s a rate of 15.9. Further, deaths that involved synthetic opioids rather than methadone nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018 in Arizona. Further, opioid-involved overdose deaths caused by heroin or prescription drugs stayed at around the same level. In 2017, 352 Arizonans died and 362 Arizonans died in 2018.

However, it is impossible to look at these opioid-related deaths without examining prescribing rates of opioids. In 2018, Arizona physicians wrote 50.7 opioid prescriptions for every 100 patients. Comparatively, the US average of prescriptions was 51.4 prescriptions per 100 patients.

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The Opioid Crisis Through the Years

The opioid epidemic is not a new issue. It began gaining traction in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies assured healthcare providers that opioids are not dangerous or addictive. As a result, healthcare providers began prescribing opioids more frequently in the late 1990s. As a result, more patients received opioids than really needed them. Then, many patients developed addictions to their prescription medications. Soon, not only were people becoming addicted to medications prescribed to them, but people were also buying and selling prescription opioids in the black market. In later years, research proved that opioids are highly addictive and dangerous.

The opioid epidemic reached its peak in 2017. As a result, more than 47,000 people living in the United States died of an opioid overdose in 2017. Also in 2017, approximately 1.7 million people in the US suffered from opioid addictions. Additionally, about 652,000 people in the US suffered from an addiction to heroin. That year, the US department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency. They also announced a 5-Point Strategy To Combat the Opioid Crisis.

Throughout the United States, people felt the individual and structural disruption caused by the opioid crisis. Opioid swept through schools and workplaces alike. People who hadn’t been interested in drug use previously suddenly found themselves in the grips of addiction. While the HHS couldn’t put a stop to the opioid epidemic completely, their efforts, as well as local efforts, have helped to fight against the opioid crisis.

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Response to the Opioid Crisis on a National and State Level

Over the years, many people have worked hard to find solutions to the opioid epidemic, on a federal and local government level. For example, several educational programs, treatment improvements, and limitations on opioid prescriptions have provided important steps to overcoming the opioid epidemic. Arizona is no exception. National and local efforts have come together to help alleviate the problems associated with the crisis.

National Response to the Opioid Crisis

To begin, the US Department of Health and Human Services created a list of five priorities to focus on. The five steps have to do with prescription limits, education, and access to treatment. Here are the five steps:

  • First, HHS strives to improve access to recovery services and addiction treatment.
  • Second, HHS promotes using overdose-reversing drugs. For example, naloxone is one effective drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
  • Third, the HHS wants to help people understand the opioid crisis better by providing public health surveillance.
  • Fourth, HHS provides research on addiction.
  • Fifth and finally, the HHS works to advance better practices for pain management.

Each of these steps addresses a different part of the opioid crisis.


Another initiative that serves Americans at a national level is the HEAL initiative. The director of the National Institute of Health (NIS) announced the beginning of a new initiative at the 2018 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. The initiative HEAL stands for Helping to End Addiction Long-Term. Further, the goal of HEAL is to provide scientific solutions to better understand and stop the opioid epidemic. In April 2018 at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis.


Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provided new guidelines for prescribing opioids. To begin, they recommend that clinicians don’t prescribe benzodiazepines with opioids. Additionally, opioids and benzodiazepines now have FDA warnings on the prescription label. Although these safeguards won’t stop people from becoming addicted to opioids, the safeguards can help people prevent situations where addictions can form.

Arizona’s Response to the Opioid Crisis

Just as the US has made excellent strides in creating a well thought out national response, Arizona is also working to fight the opioid crisis. While the Arizona government has enacted several changes, there are three important changes in particular. First, Arizona legislators passed the Opioid Epidemic Act in 2018. Second, Arizona created the Controlled Prescription Monitoring Program. Third, Arizona enacted the Good Samaritan Law. Each of these changes provides better protection and help for those impacted by the opioid crisis.


The purpose of the Opioid Epidemic Act is to help Arizona combat the opioid crisis. In 2017, Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency. He also responded with an enhanced Surveillance Advisory to respond to the opioid epidemic in Arizona. With the act is to reduce opioid overdose-related deaths in the state. Further, the bill offers guidelines for prescribing opioids. The Opioid Epidemic Act also provides ways to educate medical practitioners.


The Controlled Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) helps physicians know how to best treat their patients without over-prescribing opioids. For example, the PMP created instructional videos to help physicians understand how to make reports that effectively monitor their patients’ prescriptions.


The Good Samaritan Law helps those who experience overdose of opioids. The law states that if someone goes to the hospital for an opioid overdose, they will not be criminally charged and arrested. However, if the person was also committing other crimes at the time of the hospitalization, they could face arrest.

We Can Help You Find Treatment

In conclusion, treatment is available for you. If you or a loved one lives in Arizona and suffers from addiction, you can find the help you need. Throughout Arizona, 401 treatment centers offer addiction rehab programs. Of these 401 centers, 51 of them offer SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Programs. These programs are specifically designed to help people overcome their addictions to opioids.

Since they are certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, you can rest assured that you will receive the best treatment for opioid addictions. Many of these treatment centers with SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Programs are located in the Phoenix area. However, several others are located in the Tuscan area. Further, a few centers are located in areas surrounding nature, such as Sedona and Camp Verde. Further, 123 Arizona treatment centers also offer buprenorphine prescriptions and naltrexone prescriptions. These medications help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms of opioids. They can also help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

While we have focused mostly on the broad impacts and solutions to the opioid epidemic in Arizona, we understand that each individual’s path to treatment is personal. Therefore, if you or a loved one suffers from an opioid addiction, we can help. If you are from Arizona and you have questions about the opioid epidemic and how to find help, please contact us. Call us today at (480) 378-0660.


  • Access to top treatment centers
  • Supportive guidance
  • Financial assistance options

(480) 378-0660