Arizona prescription drug abuse on the rise

Marissa Villarreal

Medical prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Ambien and Percocet have turned from painkillers to one

of the top drug epidemics in the United States.

“Really any kind of narcotic medication can be abused but the most common thing that is prescribed from the emergency department is Percocet which is a narcotic medication mixed with Tylenol. We see that frequently abused,” said Emergency Resident, Alicia Peterson of the Adult Emergency Department at the Maricopa Medical Center.

Arizona ranks sixth highest for drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 17.5 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities, according to a new report, the Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic.

Of the number of overdose deaths, the majority are caused by prescription drug abuse in particular. According to the report, there was a 65 percent increase in prescription drug abuse death rates since 1999 when it was only 10.6 per 100,000 people.

Arizona is looking to end the abuse with an authorized Controlled Substance Prescription Monitoring Program. The state is among 30 others to have the program.

According to the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy, in December 2012, the board passed a monitoring program designed to put a stop to prescription drug abuse. Health officials created the system so that pharmacists and physicians can monitor the use of drugs among patients.

“There’s an Arizona database for controlled substances where you can look up any patient by their name and birth date, and look up where they have filled a controlled substance in the last few years. So it’ll basically show you a map of where they have received prescription drugs from, what pharmacy they filled them in, and it’ll tell you the provider that’s given it to them so we can look up pretty easily to see if patients are abusing,” Peterson said.

The Pharmacy Board will also receive an automatic notice about the patient’s drug use, requests or fills.

“If a patient is displaying drug seeking behavior or specifically asking for pain medication frequently, we’ll look them up in the system and if there is evidence that they have been getting prescriptions from other providers we’ll print out the list and show the patient,” Peterson said.

The program will benefit those who have been affected by addiction such as Arizona State University student, Courtney Cohea.

“My family has dealt with prescription drug abuse problems in the past and I think a tracking system like this would keep abusers from getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors which enables their addiction,” Cohea said.

The monitoring program will not only help doctors keep track of the patient’s drug use, but it will also allow insurance companies to access a patient’s prescription drug history.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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