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opioid overdoses in arizona

Opioid Overdoses in Arizona

100 Deaths from Opioid Overdoses Each Month in Arizona

Opioid overdoses in Arizona are at their highest rate in a decade. As the opioid crisis escalates across the country, Arizona has been hit especially hard. It currently sits at second in the nation for drug-related death, coming in just behind Nevada. Worse, the numbers have been steadily rising over the last few years.

In 2016, there were 790 overdose-related deaths, representing a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Of these deaths, 482 were caused by prescription drugs; the other 308 were attributed to heroin. This year, the numbers have been even higher, with some estimates placing overdose-related deaths at around 100 per month.

These numbers reflect only a small part of the growing opioid problem in the state. Overdose deaths may be under-reported. These numbers also do not account for all of the non-lethal overdoses that are treated each month nor for the other physical, psychological and economical impacts of the drug crisis.

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opioid overdoses in arizona

The Opioid Epidemic is a Complex Issue

Many of those who develop opioid addiction are individuals who originally obtained their drugs legally through a doctor’s prescription. They may have obtained these drugs for a specific surgery or injury, or they may suffer from a chronic pain condition.

However, thanks to the highly addictive nature of opioids and their difficult withdrawal symptoms, going off of prescription drugs can prove challenging for many people. Additional factors, such as life stress and interpersonal relationship trouble, can contribute to the likelihood of developing an addiction. Once legal access to painkillers is ceased, some addicts may turn to buying their drugs off the street or switching to the comparatively cheaper illcit drug, heroin.

Since the 1990s, America has led the world in opioid prescriptions, and doctors have been known to write extensive prescriptions beyond what is actually necessary to deal with pain. For example, a patient might go to a dentist for a wisdom tooth removal and leave with a weeks-long supply of Vicodin, even though a milder painkiller would likely be just as effective after the first day or two. Having so many extra drugs left over creates opportunities for drug misuse and abuse.

Additionally, despite the real dangers posed by these drugs, prescription painkillers are often viewed by users as being safer than other kinds of drugs. There is less social stigma against taking prescription opioids, and people may not seek help for their dependency until the problem gets out of hand.

Opioids are also notoriously easy to overdose on. Drugs available on the street may not be as pure as what a user is accustomed to. They may be laced with stronger opioids, such as Fentanyl, or they may be in a higher concentration than the user is expecting. A person who has become habituated to a specific dose may also be extremely sensitive to that same dosage after a period without any drugs; when tolerance wanes, a previously safe dose can cause a deadly overdose.

A Holistic Look at Opioid Addiction

Because so many people get hooked on prescription drugs, one suggested solution to controlling the epidemic is to limit the amount of opioid drugs in circulation. That has been the suggestion of Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona’s head health official. Dr. Christ suggests heavy restrictions placed on opioid prescriptions, preventing doctors from prescribing more than are absolutely necessary.

Other solutions, such as the growing availability of the overdose-reversing drug NARCAN®, can help to reduce the amount of opioid-related deaths. However, these measures do not strike at the root of the problem. Being revived does not put an addict into recovery; without further treatment, the user may end up overdosing again in the future.

The reality is that drug addiction is complex, and no single solution will help to solve Arizona’s opioid crisis. While issues are being discussed and implemented on a policy level, it’s important for individuals to obtain the care and intervention that they need.

At Desert Cove Recovery we recognize that addiction is deeply personal and affects each person differently. We offer treatment programs that help people to get sober and stay that way by addressing the underlying causes and contributing factors to their addiction. For more information about our program, contact us today.

someone addicted to drugs

Nearly Half of Americans Know Someone Addicted to Drugs

Knowing someone addicted to drugs is becoming more common. The results of a PEW Research Center survey found that 46 percent of American adults stated they knew of either a family member or a close friend who was

• Addicted to drugs; or
• Had been addicted previously.

There are no major differences in the numbers when sorted by race: white (46 percent), black (52 percent), Hispanic (50 percent) or gender (men and women are equally divided at 46 percent).

Substance Use Disorder

Researchers looked at federal government data to compile their findings. In 2016, approximately 7.4 million Americans (2.7 percent of the population) over the age of 12 met the criteria for illicit “drug use disorder” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) doesn’t use terms like substance abuse and substance dependence to describe those who have issues with chemicals. Instead, it uses the term “substance use disorder.” The severity of the disorder is classified as being mild, moderate or severe based on the number of diagnostic criteria that each client meets.

Definition of Substance Use Disorder – A substance use disorder occurs when the repeated use of drugs or alcohol leads to a “significant impairment.” – a health issue, disability or a failure to meet responsibilities at home, work or school. The diagnosis of substance abuse disorder is made based on evidence of issues in a person’s social life, risky use, lack of control, as well as pharmacological criteria.

Substance use disorders include the following:

Alcohol Use Disorder
• Opioid Use Disorder
• Cannabis Use Disorder
• Stimulant Use Disorder
• Hallucinogen Use Disorder
• Tobacco Use Disorder

Substance Use Statistics

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2016), 20.1 million people in the US over the age of 12 had a substance use disorder. Approximately 15.1 million had an alcohol use disorder and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder.

The survey was a self-reporting one for participating households. The true figures may well be much higher. There is also an unmarked void for the tens of millions of Americans who take other kinds of prescription drugs and are dependent on them, whether they are needed or not. The opioid epidemic has shed light on the over-prescribing issue our nation faces, but the problem is by no means limited to painkillers.

Getting Help for a Drug or Alcohol Problem

One of the first things to do in order to help someone recover from a drug or alcohol problem is to locate an effective treatment program. Desert Cove Recovery is here to assist you by helping to answer your questions and learn more about the rehabilitation and recovery process.

Contact us today to speak with a treatment specialist who can help.

Benzodiazepine Overdoses Also on the Rise

prescription drug overdoseThe main focus of lawmakers, medical professionals and educators regarding substance abuse has been on the opiate epidemic in the United States lately. For good reason too, because every day 44 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, and the rising number of heroin-related deaths is equally as alarming.

However, because all the attention has been on preventing these from occurring, people have ignored another silent killer. Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin have been killing people at a rate increase that is beginning to surpass even prescription painkillers, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” commented Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Bachhuber led a team of researchers in investigating the rising amount of benzodiazepine overdoses by compiling several large surveys that were conducted on prescription trends and overdose fatalities. They quickly found that the amount of benzos that were being prescribed had increased significantly over the years. This was an important discovery because it shows that doctors are relying on the drugs to handle their patients’ symptoms despite the very real possibility of addiction and subsequent overdose.

Typically, benzodiazepines are prescribed to address anxiety disorders and other serious problems. However, the pills are extremely addictive and can cause an even more intense level of anxiety or bring on seizures if the person has a sudden cessation of use. These dangerous symptoms often cause people to continue using more and more of the pills, and a growing number are experiencing benzodiazepine overdoses. Their level of danger increases when combined with one or more additional substances, such as alcohol or other prescription drugs.

Physicians are being pressed to review their prescribing practices given the number of prescription drug problems in the country, and it would be extremely helpful if the U.S. followed suit of other modern nations and disallowed drug companies to market prescriptions directly to consumers. Understanding the trends of abuse and overdoses is vital when it comes to saving lives and preventing undo harm to patients and their families.

Drug Overdoses Causing Death Rates to Surge Among Caucasians

credit: New York Times & CDC

credit: New York Times & CDC

A recent article in the New York Times examined the death certificates of some 60 million Americans between 1999 and 2014, gathering the information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The article notes that death rates for Caucasians of all ages groups rose in each of the last five years, particularly among people who are less educated and lower income.

However, the most shocking statistic may be that the rate of deaths from drug overdoses tripled among whites aged 35-44 and was five times higher for those aged 25-34. The figures included fatalities caused by both prescription drugs as well as illegal substances.

“That is startling. Those are tremendous increases,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

What does this say about the current drug problem in America, and who is to blame? With all of the billions of dollars spent to combat this, yet the death rates from drugs are higher than ever, where does the solution come to reversing this trend?

For starters, we know that there are many effective treatment methods for people who become addicted, so that their chances of escaping the trap are greatly increased if they can be diverted into a rehabilitation program through some form of intervention. The efforts must go well beyond that, though, to include better education and prevention programs for people of all ages, tighter controls over prescription drugs and a change in the thinking that people must take something to feel better. A new set of social norms has to be created, which is no small task, but certainly possible.

Flaws in Prescription Drug Monitoring System Being Overcome

pharmacySome healthcare providers feel there are flaws in the drug monitoring systems that enable drug abusers to continue to score multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors without regulation. Imperfections in the current methods are being addressed before states can expect to fully rely on these monitoring systems to deter prescription drug abuse. Major adjustments in the system should allow doctors and pharmacists to utilize the program in the way developers intended.

The first issue with the drug monitoring system is the privacy of the patients. When a patient goes to a doctor they are discussing private matters that, legally, are not to be shared with anyone who isn’t involved in the patient’s care. By entering the patient’s name into the database and recording what prescriptions were given out, many people are concerned that this violates the patient’s privacy. The monitoring program can be accessed by other doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement. In order to get around the privacy laws many states have the doctors go through several waivers and disclaimers, making the program less user-friendly.

Another problem that states are encountering is that not enough doctors are willing to use the program. For instance, in Montana only 24.4 percent of eligible health care providers are actually using the program. In order to get more doctors on board, many people feel that the monitoring system needs to address the privacy concerns and make the program more manageable.

Despite the difficulties with prescription drug monitoring, it does appear to be making a dent in the prescription drug problem. Last year a county in Montana reported that there were 42 cases of prescription drug abuse fraud, compared to only 13 cases this year. Many people are attributing this decline to the implementation of the drug monitoring program.

However, with record numbers of prescription drug overdose deaths around the country, more efforts to use these programs are necessary, as the life-saving potential should far out-weigh the inconvenience.

Naloxone-Carrying First Responders Are Saving Lives

nasalnarcanFirst responders in Quincy, Massachusetts have been trained to administer Narcan (a brand of naloxone) to people who have overdosed on opiate narcotics such as heroin, methadone and prescription painkillers. These paramedics and police officers have been able to save many lives, according to a news report.

Every police cruiser in the down is now equipped with two doses of nasal Narcan. Since they started carrying the doses, officers have used it successfully 170 out of 179 times over the past three years. The article notes that of the remaining nine, five of the people had already passed away before it was administered and the other four had used multiple substances.

Overdose deaths from opiates have increased exponentially across the country and reached nearly 20,000 per year, which is more than the number of lives lost to AIDS or homicides.

Providing safety measures such as making naloxone available to first responders nationwide could potentially help save thousands of lives per year. While this by no means is enough, many advocates, treatment professionals and policy makers feel that it is important to use as many tools as possible to prevent the loss of life through substance abuse.

Opiate users often seek treatment after an overdose, which should halt the drug use if the right program is matched up to the individual. If you know of someone in need of treatment for heroin addiction, painkillers or any other type of drug, contact us today.